CARBONDALE (2/5/13) – The Aspen Skiers came to town and won the gunfight at the Roaring Fork corral, 56-54, handing the Rams their first Western Slope League loss and ending a 12-game winning streak.
The two teams combined to make 8 of 15 three pointers in a first half that included five lead changes and ended in a 26-26 tie. Trent Lichtenwalter buried two more treys and drove to the hoop to account for all the points in an 8-0 Aspen run to open the third quarter while the Rams shot nothing but blanks, missing all 14 of their field goal tries and 4 of 8 from the line. But after pushing the lead to 36-27 when Evan Patzoldt made two free throws at the 4:31 mark, Aspen suddenly loss the range as well, going scoreless until Taylor Henschke scored on a drive with 8 seconds left. Fouled at the buzzer, Trae Moxley stepped to the line all by himself as both teams gathered in front of their benches. After missing his fourth straight free throw, the 6-5 senior finally sank one to leave Aspen ahead 38-30 going into the final quarter.
As the fourth period began, the gunslingers really started blazing for Roaring Fork. Tanner Nieslanik, who would go 5-for-5 from beyond the arc in the game, made a pair of treys around a steal and layup from Dakotah Grett, and when Ben Carpenter connected from three after missing his previous five attempts, the Rams trailed by one, 44-43 with three minutes remaining.
Contested jumpers that went down by Clayton Crawford and Henschke, while Moxley twice missed the front of a one-and-one attempt, pushed the lead back to five, 48-43, with 1:50 to play. Carpenter hit another three-pointer before Luke Rider and Moxley exchanged baskets, leaving Aspen up by two with a minute left. Fifteen seconds later, Crawford’s drive gave Aspen a 52-48 lead, but Grett’s long three trimmed the margin to one with 30 seconds to go, giving Roaring Fork its fifth 3-bomb in six fourth-quarter tries.
After a time out by Skier coach Steve Ketchum, Rider was fouled and made the first of a one-and-one before Ram coach Larry Williams tried to ice him with a time out. But Rider dropped the second free throw in for a three-point lead with 19 ticks left on the clock. Following another Ram time out, Grett’s deep three banked off the rim and was rebounded by Crawford. When he it 56-51 and 6-for-6 at the line for the Skiers in the final frame, Grett’s final 3-pointer was a fitting but meaningless finale.
Crawford, who made all three of his 3-point attempts and had 8 rebounds, led all scorers with 18 points, followed by 14 for Lichtenwalter. Henschke contributed 10 points off the Skier bench, Patzoldt tallied 8, and Rider dished out 5 assists as well as scoring all 6 of his points in the deciding fourth quarter. Daniel Schwartz didn’t scored but pulled down 8 rebounds to help Aspen to a 30-23 advantage.
Nieslanik’s five three’s accounted for all his points and led the Rams, and Moxley had 10 points and 8 rebounds. Carpenter and Grett, who combined for 12 points on 4-of-6 treys in the fourth quarter, were held to just Grett’s second-quarter three before the final 8 minutes. Jack Fisher had 7 points and 7 boards for the Rams.
The win moves Aspen (12-3, 10-2 WSL) one game behind the Rams (12-3, 11-1) in the three-way Western Slope League tussle with Moffat County (13-1, 10-1), which lost by three at Roaring Fork in December, but hosts the Rams Feb. 16, four days after making a trip to Aspen.