Aspen boys ready for regionals

Since 2000, only three Western Slope basketball teams have won a state championship.

This season, a handful of teams are trying to reverse that and bring a golden basketball back to the Western Slope.

In Class 3A and Class 2A, four Western Slope League teams have more than 20 wins and are hosting regional tournaments this weekend.

On the 3A boys side, WSL regular-season and district champion Aspen is the No. 2 overall seed. Other than a 65-61 win over Palisade, the Skiers (20-0) have won every game by at least 10 points, including a convincing 67-46 victory over Hotchkiss in the district championship game.

One big reason for the Skiers success is senior guard Andrew Papenfus. A 43-percent 3-point shooter, Papenfus averages 15 points per game.

“It will be nice to host regionals,” Papenfus said. “It’s awesome to play in front of a packed gym at home.”

It’s the third straight season the Skiers have hosted a regional. Aspen plays The Academy (9-13) in its first game, with No. 15 seed Yuma (16-6) playing No. 18 Denver Christian (14-9) in the other game.

In Class 3A girls, Olathe (22-0) needed a fourth-quarter comeback against Grand Valley to win the district tournament.

An 18-4 run led to a 44-41 victory that allowed the Pirates to lock up the No. 2 overall seed. Olathe hosts a regional this weekend, playing No. 30 Centauri, with No. 14 The Classical Academy and No. 19 Denver School of Science and Tech rounding out the quad.

After missing the Great 8 last season, the Pirates are in good position this season with two home games. Olathe coach Paul Althaus said the Pirates knew going into the district tournament how critical it was to get a home regional.

“It’s huge, we talked about it all year,” Althaus said. “Now we need to win a couple games, and go to Fort Collins for state.”

The Class 2A Western Slope League winners will play in newly renovated Brownson Arena at Mesa State College this weekend.

The Paonia girls (20-1) were last year’s state runners-up, and are poised for another run to the title game.

The Eagles, whose only loss came against Olathe, host Nederland on Friday. Hoehne and Hayden round out the regional, and Eagles coach Scott Rienks knows it’s not going to be easy.

“We think we can match up well with all those teams,” Rienks said. “But they all are tough.”

Hayden (15-7) has good size and Rienks said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers in the championship game at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

On the boys side, also at Brownson Arena, district tournament champ Hayden (17-5) is the top seed.

The Tigers upset previously unbeaten Meeker in the district championship game 65-58 and play Longmont Christian in Friday’s first-round game. John Mall and Paonia (9-13) play in the other regional, with Saturday’s championship game at 12:30 p.m.


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