Coal Ridge rally falls short vs. Aspen |

Coal Ridge rally falls short vs. Aspen

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan Special to the Post Independent

FORT COLLINS, Colorado ” Slowly but surely, the question is lessening in its frequency.

“Where are you guys from?”

As a fourth-year school, it’s a question Coal Ridge’s boys basketball team is used to hearing.

And despite bowing out of the 3A boys basketball state tournament in two games ” Aspen dealt the final blow by beating the Titans 64-57 in Friday’s consolation semifinals ” it’s a question Coal Ridge went a long way in answering by just making the classification’s round of eight.

“It’s huge,” senior Adam Miller said. “Only being around four years as a school, coming to state our fourth year is huge.”

Added senior teammate Eric Schmitz: “We’re always being asked that. Now people are starting to know where we are.”

Fighting to the final buzzer at Colorado State University’s Moby Arena, the Titans threw the kitchen sink and a little more at Aspen on Friday, trimming a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit down to five in the final seconds.

Andy Smedra and Schmitz spearheaded the late charge, helping the Titans outscore the Skiers 29-17 in the final period. Coal Ridge rattled off 19 of the game’s final 24 points.

“When we started buckling down and playing hard defense like they were in the second half, we started coming back,” Smedra, a junior, said. “It was just too late.”

It didn’t hurt that nearly everything Coal Ridge threw up shot-wise seemed to find the net.

Smedra hit three 3-pointers and scored 14 fourth-quarter points and Schmitz added 12 points and matched Smedra’s output from beyond the arc as the Titans, who trailed 59-38 with 3 minutes, 8 seconds to go, cut Aspen’s lead down to 62-57 with 9.1 seconds left.

Skiers coach Steve Ketchum had his subs in for a stretch of the fourth, but had to call timeout and send his starters back on the court with about a minute to go.

“Coal Ridge, to their credit, brought in the heavy artillery and were raining in 3s from all over,” Ketchum said.

Smedra finished with a game-high 24 points, while Schmitz chipped in with 20. Both hit five 3-pointers on the afternoon. A couple of Schmitz’s triples fell from well beyond the arc.

“I wish there was a four-point line,” Coal Ridge coach Paul Harvey joked, “because he could have hit a couple.”

Jonathon Roessler and Alex Klein added five points apiece for the Titans, who finished the season with a 21-5 record and the school’s first-ever trip to the Great Eight.

Andrew Papenfus led Aspen (24-2) with 18 points, followed by Trevor Watson with 15 and Matthew Holmes with 11.

All were instrumental in delivering Aspen its big lead.

Behind nine first-half points from Papenfus, the Skiers dug out of an early 11-4 hole to take a 33-18 lead into halftime.

During a 5:24 span spread across the first and second quarters, Aspen scored 16 straight points. The Skiers shot 67 percent (12-for-18) in the first half.

“When we click and we’re focused, I think we’re the best team in 3A,” said Papenfus, a junior. “But it’s when we have those two-minute lapses and teams come back that it’s hard to dig yourself out.”

Lapses cost Aspen in its 64-53 loss to Faith Christian in Thursday’s Great Eight, and nearly cost the Skiers on Friday. But they survived to make today’s fifth-place game against Yuma. That game is set to tip off at 10 a.m.

Friday’s meeting between Aspen and Coal Ridge was the teams’ fourth this season. The Skiers won three of the four.

“Everyone was joking during captains’ meeting that we hope we don’t play each other again.” Papenfus relayed. “It’s always fun to play your rival, and I think everyone was psyched.”

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