Devils’ boys break out in second half
It was a tale of two halves Tuesday in Eagle Valley’s 55-37 win over Hotchkiss in its district opener.
The Bulldogs matched the Devils blow-for-blow in the first two quarters of action, with the score tied at 11-11 after one and 22-22 after two – but in the second half the Devils got rolling, while the Bulldogs seemed to be stuck in first gear.
“I just thought we needed to relax a little bit,” Devils coach Phil Cain said, referring to what he said to his team in the locker room at halftime. “I thought we were pretty tight that first half, especially offensively. We missed some pretty easy shots and our confidence kind of dropped a little bit.”
The Devils were also having a frustrating time on defense in the first 16 minutes of Tuesday’s matchup. Against Eagle Valley’s zone, the Bulldogs played patient ball-control basketball, waiting for open looks before pulling up to shoot.
The Bulldogs also leaned heavily on their 3-point game, scoring 12 of their first 22 points from behind the arc. Hotchkiss’ Curt Morgan was the most clutch, dropping in the Bulldog’s last seven points of the half off two 3-point bombs as well as sinking a pull-up jumper with 28 seconds remaining which tied the score at the break.
“Early on, we tried to play zone,” Cain said. “We were trying to rotate and get a hand up, but we weren’t rotating fast enough. We started off in zone on our first possession right after halftime, and (Morgan) hit another 3 on us. We went to man-to-man after that and never went back.”
After the switch, which included putting faster Devils such as Peter Berg and Sean Bartlett on Morgan, the Bulldogs seemed out of rhythm and struggled against a surging Devils attack.
The Devils responded to their first deficit of the night and went on a 10-2 run following Morgan’s opening 3, keyed by the sharp shooting of guards Jerad Schlegel and Kevin Cruz.
Schlegel drained a 3-pointer to put the Devils up by four. Then, following a Bulldogs bucket, Cruz cranked up another 3-pointer followed by a tough put-back in the paint which pushed Eagle Valley’s lead to 34-27.
“We’re a second-half team,” Cruz said.
“Coach just told us to wait for our shots and shoot them when we were open because they weren’t challenging us.”
Added Schlegel, “We were just having an off night in the first half. Bad passes, missing open looks, not rebounding as well as we should have. We went in at halftime and decided that we were going to come out and play like we play, and we just had a better second half all around. We just started denying their outside shooters any type of look.”
Ahead by a comfortable nine points at end of the third quarter, the Devils played with confidence in the final eight minutes, while the Bulldogs mentally fell apart.
Nine of the Devils’ 15 fourth-quarter points came from the free-throw line as Cody Gerard and Cruz both made sure to keep the game out of reach after Hotchkiss was forced to start hacking.
The Devils next play at Rifle Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the second round of the district tournament against Basalt.
Lady Devils win
The Aspen girls basketball team was missing three starters in its district opener against Eagle Valley Tuesday, including leading scorer Liz Floyd, but that didn’t mean the Devils let up one bit.
“Coach said to pretend that I was playing against the Denver Nuggets,” said Devils’ center Kenzie Shreeve, who has gone toe-to-toe twice with Floyd this season. “He said, “No letting up.'”
Well, Shreeve and her Lady Devils cohorts might not have stood a chance against ‘Melo and the Nuggets, but they sure whaled on the Skiers, winning in resounding fashion, 56-38.
It was a total team effort for coach Mike Vidakovich’s team, as Shreeve poured in 10 points, guard Trista Sandoval notched 14 and Alex Amsden and Stacie Santoro added nine points and six points, respectively.
“I thought our press was very effective in the second half and I think our defense helped dictate the tempo as much as our offense did,” Vidakovich said. “One thing I never have to worry about with these guys is someone not passing to the open person.”
The Devils took the lead from the opening tip and never stopped to let the Skiers back into the game, being up by as much as 15 midway through the third quarter.
Crisp passing and tough defense were the cornerstones of the Devils’ attack, but they also whittled away at the Skiers’ resolve with tough offensive rebounding and a breakneck fast break that continued to net easy points.
“We really wanted to come out strong right away and stay strong the whole night,” said Sandoval. “It was really important to run it down the court and feed the ball to our post, either Kenzie or Stacie. We passed around, too, if it wasn’t there to help shift the defense.”
With the win, the Lady Devils earned a rematch with the Basalt Longhorns Friday at Rifle at 6:30 p.m.
Contact sports writer Nate Peterson at 949-0555 ext. 608 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.