Young Aspen team soaring into regionals

Coal Ridge High’s Andy Smedra finds his way around Matthew Holmes from Aspen High School Saturday night during the playoffs in Palisade.

A basketball coach always looks for the positive, but Steve Ketchum wasn’t expecting his Aspen High School team to respond quite this well.

After graduating nine seniors who were an integral part of the Skiers’ run to a fourth-place finish in last season’s Class 3A state playoffs, Ketchum could hardly have envisioned this year’s squad producing an even better season.

“We’ve played great,” Ketchum said, especially with a strong run through last weekend’s district tournament. “We played as well as we’ve ever played.”

That gave the Skiers (21-1) one of the four No. 1 seeds entering this weekend’s regional tournament.

Only one current Skier, junior Matthew Holmes, got much varsity time last year.

“I would have been happy with a top-three (Western Slope League) finish,” Ketchum said.
Instead, Aspen went 15-1 and won the league title.

Most of Aspen’s offense last year went through 6-foot-7 senior Cory Parker. Without a dominant force inside, the Skiers were forced to go a different route this season.

“We have so much balance,” Ketchum said.

Four players are scoring more than eight points a game for Aspen, led by senior post Walter Abrahamovich’s 13.0 average.

Last season’s team relied on its pressure defense to force the issue. This season’s squad hasn’t been as effective in the full-court press.

Then again, “We get stops when we need them,” Ketchum said.

With all but three players returning next season, the future looks bright, but Ke-tchum is hoping for a run that can surpass last year’s run to the state semifinals.

It may be a challenge just to get out of the region, however. The Skiers open with Bayfield (7-13) on Friday. If they win, they face either Platte Valley (16-7) or Buena Vista (13-10), both veterans of postseason play, on Saturday.

As a No. 2 seed in its region, Coal Ridge, the only team to defeat Aspen this season, also gets to host a region.

The Titans face Holy Family on Friday night, with the winner playing either Grand Valley or Colorado Academy on Saturday.

Cedaredge plays at top region seed Jefferson Academy on Friday. Gunnison, the other WSL playoff qualifier, faces Strasburg on Friday at Peyton.

Gunnison won the district girls title and hosts a region this weekend. The Cowboys take on Denver School of Science and Technology on Friday.

In other Friday first-round games, Coal Ridge plays Yuma at St. Mary’s, Grand Valley is at Buena Vista, Olathe goes against Estes Park at Bayfield and Basalt faces Colorado Springs Christian at Holy Family.


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