PALISADE (2/25/12) — By sweeping through the 3A Western Slope Boys District Tournament, the Aspen Skiers will host a four-team regional tournament next weekend. â€œWe\'re thrilled to get a home regional,â€ Skiers coach Steve Ketchum said after his team held off Roaring Fork, 47-37 in the championship game Saturday night. The Rams and second place Rifle Lady Bears, who fell to Olathe in the girls championship, 47-30, await the Sunday announcement from CHSAA to find out if they will host a regional or be on the road. The Coal Ridge Titans soundly defeated Rifle 71-51 for third place in the boys bracket and both teams will find out their regional destination Sunday, along with the Roaring Fork girls, who won the final playoff spot by defeating Hotchkiss, 45-34 Saturday morning.
3A DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP: ASPEN BOYS 47, ROARING FORK 37
After falling behind by 16 early in the second quarter, Roaring Fork got as close as 3 points in the third quarter, only to have the Skiers run off 8 straight points, but a 9-2 run by the Rams cut the lead to 35-31 after a Sam Carpenter 3-pointer began the final frame. â€œThat\'s how it\'s supposed to be,â€ Ketchum said after the Skiers responded with a 7-0 run: â€œA classic Aspen-Roaring Fork battle. They fought hard and made us nervous.â€
Indeed, even trailing by 11 with less than 3 minutes to go, Roaring Fork used a steal and layup, then a 3-pointer by Clay Gross to get within seven, but 5-of-7 free throws by James Powell and Austin Roark held off the Rams. â€œWe\'ve got to give it to Roaring Fork; they always play us tough,â€ said Roark, who had 12 second half points as his team outscored the Rams 24-21 the last two periods. Held to just two points in the first half, the 6-9 senior transfer from New Mexico credited Roaring Fork with â€œa great game plan, but I had the confidence to keep shooting.â€
Another key for the Skiers, who led 23-16 at halftime, was the play of Jake Nugent, despite picking up his third foul just a minute into the third quarter. Roaring Fork, down 23-7 with 4:30 to go in the second period after a Nugent putback, shut out the Skiers 9-0, with Trae Moxley and Sam Carpenter scoring 4 apiece in a 9-0 finish to the quarter. The duo added a basket each, cutting the lead to 23-20 in the third, so Ketchum decided to keep Nugent on the floor. â€œJake\'s one of the best athletes I\'ve ever had. We need him in the ballgame to be successful.â€
And the decision paid dividends as the 6-4 senior got a steal two minutes later, then ended a nine minute Aspen scoring drought with a basket. That seemed to ignite the moribund Skier offense as first Quinn Morehead, then Roark drained three-pointers on the next two possessions to extend the lead to eleven, 31-20. â€œIt shows how much he (Ketchum) trusts me to be a disciplined player,â€ Nugent, who finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds, said of Ketchum\'s leaving him in the game with 3 fouls.
Roark finished with 14 and 10 rebounds, Morehead added 8 with 5 assists and Daniel Amador scored 6 for the Skiers. Six-three sophomore Trent Lichtenwalter also made a large contribution off the bench after the Rams had pulled within four points early in the fourth. Rebounding a missed shot, he was fouled and made a free throw, then scored on another offensive put-back to cap the 7-0 Aspen run and settle the outcome.
Moxley and Carpenter each tallied 11 to lead the Rams, who were uncharacteristically cold from beyond the arc, making just 3 of 15 – due in large part to an active Aspen defense.
Both Aspen (18-4) and Roaring Fork (15-7) will be in action next Friday. â€œWe\'re really excited to play at home again,â€ Roark said, while the Rams will hope their second-place finish and winning 11 of their last 13 (both losses to Aspen) is enough to earn a home regional themselves.
3A DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP: OLATHE 47, RIFLE GIRLS 30
Rifle coach Stephanie Heald said before the 3A District Championship game that her team was pointing toward a rematch with undefeated Western Slope League champion Olathe, but knew their two talented senior guards could be trouble for the Lady Bears\' hopes to repeat as champs. That knowledge proved correct as Tawni Middleton and Kylie Tait scored all 21 of the Pirates points on the way to a five-point halftime lead and wound up with 38 in their team\'s 47-30 win Saturday at Palisade High School.
The Bears10-12 led only once, 6-4, in the game\'s opening moments, but back-to-back Middleton layups put the Pirates up 9-7 after the first quarter. Then Middleton poured in consectutive treys to open the second, and after Joey Kuheim scored on a putback for Rifle, Tait drove in for a pair of buckets, giving Olathe a 19-11 lead. Free throws by Jasmine Figueira and Kuheim and a basket by Tani Jorgenson cut the lead to 3 before a steal and layup by Tait provided the 21-16 halftime margin.
Once again the senior duo sparked a 6-0 opening run in the third quarter for the Pirates before Chante church scored Rifle\'s first points with a 3-pointer at the 3:48 mark. Finally, someone else put the ball into the hoop for Olathe as Tait dished to Brenda Suarezfor a jumper, then found Bethany Cox inside to kick the lead to twelve, 31-19 with 1:21 left in the period.
Trailing by 10 going into the fourth, Rifle was victimized by another Olathe 6-0 scoring burst, featuring a 3-pointer by Tait that essentially ended the Bears\' comeback hopes. Oltahe (20-2) will host a 4-team regional next weekend, while the Bears will hope their 18-4 record is impressive enough to earn a home regional.
Church, Figueira, Kuheim and Ashley Rickstrew all scored 7 for the Bears, with Kuheim pulling down 11 rebounds and Figueira dishing out 4 assists. Tait tallied 20, including 9 in the fourth quarter to lead the Pirate scoring.
COAL RIDGE BOYS REBOUND TO TAKE THIRD PLACE
After a nightmare 24-point loss in the semifinals to Aspen that saw the Titans miss all 12 of their 3-pointers and 40 of 52 shots for the game, coach Paul Harvey said, â€œWe played our game,â€ in a 71-51 win over Rifle Saturday that gave Coal Ridge (10-12) third place in the district tournament. The Titans jumped in front 18-11 in the first quarter, improved the lead to 13, then survived an 8-0 Rifle run, to lead 30-26 at the half.
The Titans, with two free throws from Cody Walls and a pair of offensive put-backs by Darik Brown and Cameron Cotton, increased their lead to 10, then after Tanner Rust popped a trey, McCade Cox answered with one of his own and Walls drilled a pair from beyond the arc, jumping the Coal Ridge lead to 45-29 midway through the third quarter.
Free throws by Andy Bowles, a layup by Cotton and Walls\' pass to Brown for a score kicked the lead to 22 in the opening two minutes of the fourth, insuring the outcome for the Titans. Brown led all scorers with 20, aided by 15 from Walls and 10 by Tyler Guettler. Taylor Webb\'s 13 points paced the Bears (9-14), whose fourth place district finish will earn them a place in next weekend\'s regional playoffs.
The top five teams in the boys and girls brackets each will continue in the 3A state tournament. Where and whom they play will be announced Sunday. Here are the qualifiers:
3A District Girls:
3- Grand Valley
5- Roaring Fork
3A District Boys:
2- Roaring Fork
3- Coal Ridge