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Skier boys hoops topple the Titans, remain unbeaten

Jon Maletz
Aspen Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan contributed photoAspen's Nick Codd grabs a little hang time after dunking the ball in Friday's win over visiting Coal Ridge.
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ASPEN, Colorado – It’s going to take more than this to satisfy Zack Babich.

“I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface [of our potential],” the Aspen forward said after Friday’s game with visiting Coal Ridge. “We’re not winning by as much as we should. … There’s more to come.”

What an unsettling proposition for the rest of the 3A Western Slope. Despite missing one key contributor because of a family matter and having multiple players slowed by injuries, the Skiers had little trouble against the Titans. Babich scored 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds and two others scored in double figures for Aspen, which cruised to a 63-45 win, spoiling a 25-point night from Coal Ridge guard Andy Smedra.



The Skiers, No. 2 in the latest 3A state poll behind Faith Christian, have won nine straight to open the season. In their six league wins, Aspen’s average margin of victory is nearly 20 points.

“I’m very, very pleased with the effort and the teamwork,” Skiers head coach Steve Ketchum said. “I’m loving the fact that Zack finally turned the switch on and went into overdrive. … I’ve told the kids that he’s the X factor. If he gets going, look out.”



Babich and front-court mate Nick Codd combined for 10 points in a first quarter in which the Skiers jumped out to a 14-8 lead.

After the Titans (3-8 overall, 3-5 league) pulled to within two with 5 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the opening half, Matthew Holmes scored twice, then Walker Moriarty – making his first appearance of the season after breaking his ankle in a fall football game in Gunnison – scored to give Aspen an eight-point cushion.

Later in the second quarter, Codd converted three consecutive baskets to stretch the lead to 12. Smedra cut the Coal Ridge deficit to 28-19 with a 3-pointer right before the half.

The senior scored 14 points in the first half, and 18 of his team’s first 23.

“He’s become such a great scorer, the leading scorer in our league,” Ketchum said. “He’s tough to stop.”

The Skiers countered with a standout of their own. On a night when Anderson Cole was out of town attending a funeral and Andrew Papenfus (calf bruise) and Bridger Dawson (sprained ankle) were less than 100 percent, Babich made sure Aspen kept rolling.

He routinely beat the defense down the court in transition, resulting in easy lay-ups, and was a force on the offensive glass. When Devin Kahn missed a free throw with 5:53 remaining in the third quarter, Babich swarmed the lane, pulled down the rebound and finished, giving the Skiers a 33-21 lead.

Later, he scored three consecutive buckets in the paint, all but sealing the win as the lead ballooned to 19.

“I fought for every rebound and tried to make every shot,” Babich said. “I also came in with a positive attitude. That means a lot.”

Aspen cleared the bench during the fourth quarter, when it led by as many as 22. That margin would have been bigger had the Skiers not missed multiple lay-ups or 13 of 16 from the foul line.

Codd and Holmes finished with 12 points each. Papenfus added six and Moriarty five for Aspen, which visits Grand Valley at 4 p.m. today. The Skiers picked up a 15-point win when the two teams met Dec. 11.

Aspen had no answer for Tori Verdieck.

Coal Ridge’s senior center controlled the glass on both ends Friday in Aspen. She scored a game-high 17 points and her imposing, physical presence in the paint shut down the Skiers’ offense in a 51-28 Titans win.

“We knew she was a great player going in,” Skiers head coach Jeremy Haack said. “A player like that is going to get her points, but you have to try and contain her.”

Aspen (3-5, 2-4) could do little to contain Verdieck or Coal Ridge during the opening eight minutes. While the Skiers could muster just four points on field goals from Bailey Everhart and Georgia Lipkin, the Titans jumped out to a 16-4 lead. Five different players scored during the stretch.

Aspen trailed, 29-15, at the half.

“During the first half the focus wasn’t there and it showed,” Haack said. “I have no idea [why]. We won two in a row [before tonight]. I was surprised to see us so flat … especially against a team I think we can compete with.”

The Skiers made one last run in the opening minutes of the third quarter, scoring five straight to pull to within 11 points. The Titans (5-6, 4-4) answered right back. Ashlie Bowles pulled down an offensive board and scored, then Verdieck completed a three-point play to stretch the lead to 34-20.

Coal Ridge all but sealed the win with an 11-2 run early in the fourth.

Anderson finished with 13 for Aspen, which visits Grand Valley at 2:30 p.m. today.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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