Skiers sweep Cardinals in hoops |

Skiers sweep Cardinals in hoops

Michael Appelgate
The Aspen Times
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Austin Roark’s return from a week-long illness had an immediate impact Saturday, as the senior forward scored in the first minute on a turnaround layup. But that was all the offense Aspen would get in the opening quarter.

Grand Valley would go on to score the next 14 points and shut out the Skiers offense in what Aspen head coach Steve Ketchum described as one of his most frustrating time as a coach.

“I don’t think I’ve been that disappointed, that mad or upset in a long time,” Ketchum said. “Exactly what we talked about and prepped for and discussed throughout our pregame, they did the exact opposite.”

Despite a 14-2 deficit after the first quarter, Aspen closed the gap to 19-15 by halftime, then shook off its struggles in a huge way. In the third quarter, the Skiers outscored the Cardinals 21-5 on their way to their ninth straight win, 45-37.

Aspen improved to 9-2 and 6-0 in the 3A Western Slope League, while Grand Valley dropped to 8-4 and 4-2.

“Offensively, we shot very poorly and missed a lot around the rim. We were just in a funk,” Ketchum said. “We weren’t doing anything we wanted to do on both sides of the court. But to their credit, we made some adjustments and got motivated.”

Ketchum’s team received a spark in the second quarter, starting with Roark.

Although he played just two minutes in the first quarters, Roark made the most of them, finishing with 10 points. The senior began second quarter with a layup and foul, and converted the three-point play.

After a 3-pointer from Grand Valley’s Jacob White, the Skiers scored the next nine points, led by Trent Lichtenwalter’s five, to trim the lead to 17-14.

“Roark is sick as a dog, but he just wanted to try it out,” Ketchum said. “He did a nice job with his energy level, which was so low. We just need him to get well so we can do better from the start.”

After Aspen’s slow start, senior Jake Nugent paced the Skiers with 13 points, and guard Quinn Morehead, who provided electric playmaking, finished with six points, including a 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer.

“It’s obvious these kids can turn it on when they want to, but they’re teenagers. Who knows what can motivate them?” Ketchum said. “With a quality team, it has to come from within, and they have to be self-motivated.”

After Aspen refocused and began guarding what Ketchum called some of the best three-point shooters in Colorado, Grand Valley’s offense halted, scoring just 10 points in the second and third quarters combined.

Trever Smith led the Cardinals with 13 points, and White had 11.

Next up for Aspen is a 4A test against Palisade on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are 11-2 overall and on an 11-game winning streak.

“That’s the type of game that we need,” Ketchum said. “It kind of shows your character, so hopefully we’ll get a little bit more healthy and see what we can do against some bigger people.”

With the halftime score knotted at 33 at against league rival Grand Valley, Skiers head coach Jeremy Haack asked his team to dig deeper.

One player took it to heart: “He told us to ‘keep digging,’ so I asked him, ‘If you give us some shovels, we can dig,'” said senior Savannah Johnson. “And in the end, he gave us shovels, so we dug.”

While no shovels actually appeared on the court, the Skiers then went on an 11-0 run to open up the third quarter and played stout defense, holding their opponents scoreless for 5 minutes, 30 seconds and to five points in the third quarter.

Aspen carried its momentum into the fourth, and the Cardinals never came within nine for the rest of the game. The Skiers claimed their second straight win, 60-51, and improved to 6-5 overall and to 3-3 in the Western Slope League. With the loss, Grand Valley fell to 7-4 (4-2).

“I told them the same thing I told them last night: Just play harder in the second half,” Haack said. “It was a great game to be a part of, and it was the best basketball game we’ve ever played. It was an incredible team effort and just another game where we let it fly.”

On Friday, behind 26 points from Bailey Everhart, Aspen put the game out of reach in the third quarter, amassing a 41-24 lead against Basalt.

On Saturday, Grand Valley could not match the Aspen senior’s post presence – or her 27 points.

“We knew who their three-point shooters were, so we just tried some different things defensively in the second half,” Haack said.

Ashlynn Speakman, who scored 10 points in the first half, could not find any space to shoot in the second. She finished with 13 points as the Skiers stifled the Grand Valley offense.

Haley Kremer scored 10 points, and Annie Graber contributed nine in a complete team effort.

“The sky is the limit right now,” Haack said. “These girls are really believing in each other, and that is huge. That’s all we ask for, and they are an amazing group of kids.”

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