Freshman Brown seals Palisade win down stretch
With fewer than 30 seconds left in the game Friday night, Palisade freshman Ashlyn Brown stood at the free-throw line. In a nearly silent gym, an audible swish rang out as she pushed Palisade’s lead to two possessions, and the Bulldogs hung on to beat Glenwood Springs 43-39.
Before the final three minutes of the game, Palisade (5-6, 4-2 Western Slope League) had led only once. But during the closing moments of the game, a Bulldog squad with one senior found leadership from Brown and Aspen Guray, two freshmen.
“Sometimes I forget they’re freshmen, if we’re being honest,” Bulldogs coach Danielle Bagwell said.
Brown intercepted a pass, hit a short shot to put the Bulldogs ahead 38-36 and soon after sealed the Palisade victory from the line by making the first free throw in a one-and-one situation. All in under a minute.
Guray, at 5-foot-11, provided much-needed height to counter a physical Glenwood Springs team and led the Bulldogs with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“It’s fun to watch because you realize that they’re going to be here for awhile,” Bagwell said. “Most of these girls have played together in club, AAU and middle school stuff, and that, along with having three sisters on the team, adds a ton of chemistry, regardless of where the strong play is coming from.”
Brown’s sisters, Jenna and Casey, a junior and sophomore, respectively, provided Ashlyn with moral support during moments when she needed to perform well.
“When I’m doing bad, they calm me down,” Ashlyn said. “They tell me what to do and what not to do. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s nerve-racking, being in that situation, and when it’s pretty much silent it’s basically torture. But to hit a shot with all that going on feels great.”
Kenzie Nelson-Buehler led Glenwood Springs (7-3, 3-3 WSL) with 15 points, and Delaney Gaddis added 10 points.
Six of the eight players on the Palisade roster scored. After Guray, Ashlyn Brown notched eight points, and Jenna Brown, Casey Brown and Moriah Rayment each had six points.
Palisade scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, one point less than its first three quarters combined. Although the Bulldogs have made defense their focus year after year, Bagwell said her first year as coach has been focused on offense.
“In the first half we shot terribly,” Bagwell said. “I don’t know what our shooting percentage was, but I bet it was awful. In the second half, we came out and focused on getting stops. That helped us start executing offensively.
“Coming into this summer, I’ve always been a defensive coach. But knowing they have shooting weaknesses, we’ve really focused on offense this year. Obviously, we’re still a defensive team, but we haven’t forgotten about offense.”