Bulldog boys rally to win 3A district title
The Aspen High School boys basketball team appeared to be in control Saturday, but then the lead — and eventually the game — slipped away.
Moffat County (18-4) used a big fourth-quarter comeback to beat Aspen 62-54 in the Class 3A Western Slope district championship game on Saturday at Palisade.
Aspen (18-4) was in control for much of the game, taking leads of 30-22 at the half and 43-37 at the end of the third quarter.
But the Bulldogs got 11 points and two 3-pointers from Kort Hatthorn to fuel a 25-point fourth quarter. The sophomore had the hot hand in the game, finishing with 26 points, including five 3-pointers.
Early on, Moffat County kept getting close, only to see the Skiers keep the lead between four and six.
Trailing 45-41 with 6:20 remaining, Hatthorn was left all alone at the top of the key and swished a 3 to make it 45-44. But Aspen’s Jack Rosenthal immediately answered with a 3-pointer of his own.
An inside bucket from Trent Lichtenwalter pushed the lead back to 50-45 for the Skiers.
A layup by Taft Cleverly pulled the Bulldogs even at 50-50 with 4:10 remaining. But a pair of free throws by Levi Wright gave the Skiers their final lead, 54-52.
That’s when the Bulldogs made their final run to pull away.
Moffat County’s comeback was complete when Joe Camilletti made a strong drive to the basket and was fouled. His bucket and free throw put the Bulldogs up for good at 55-54.
The Moffat County faithful were treated to a rim-rattling play the next time down when Cleverly found Javen Gumber open on the baseline. The 6-foot-7 sophomore took one dribble and launched himself at the rim for a dunk to push the lead to 57-54.
The Bulldogs added three free throws and a late layup to secure the win over the top-seeded Skiers.
Just as their records indicate, the teams were evenly matched this year and came into the tournament having split their regular-season series — with each team winning on its home court.
In the third-place game, Grand Valley’s high-octane attack was too much for Coal Ridge in a 78-59 victory.
Junior Sam Parker, who averages more than 21 points a game, poured in 29 and hit four 3-pointers to lead the Cardinals.
Grand Valley got off to a hot start behind three 3-pointers and 13 points from John Parker to push the lead to 27-9 after the first quarter. John Parker, a sophomore, finished with 20 points and Tanner Magee added 11 for the Cardinals.
Roaring Fork defeated Gunnison 41-34 in the fifth-place game.
The Class 3A state tournament field will be announced today, with the top five teams from the Western Slope district to be seeded in the 32-team bracket.
Paonia won the 2A District 5 tournament title with a 69-57 win over Meeker at Soroco High School.
West Grand held off Rangely 54-52 to take third place in the tournament.
The top three teams from the tournament will advance and be seeded in the 2A state tournament.