McLean, Bulldogs advance to district title game

Durango on deck for 4A Western Slope League champion Palisade

In the best circumstances, Luke McLean has a handful of games left as a basketball player.

The Palisade High School forward and Colorado Mesa University football signee joked with Bulldogs coach Brian Tafel before Friday’s game that he “has a couple 3s left in him.”

It was a McLean 3-pointer that salvaged an up-and-down game for the Bulldogs and sealed their trip to the Class 4A Southwestern/Western Slope District tournament final with a 49-44 victory over Eagle Valley at Brownson Arena.

“He’s just a gamer,” Tafel said. “We’re going to miss him when he graduates.”

McLean came off a screen above the elbow and buried his first 3-pointer of the game relatively uncontested.

“I kicked it in to Jesus (Aguirre), and he kicked it right back out,” McLean said. “It was a pretty easy shot. I’m just lucky the shot went in.”

The WSL champs face Durango (16-5) at 2:30 this afternoon in the championship game at Brownson Arena.

The Bulldogs lost to Durango earlier in the season, but Tafel said he’s prepared for what the Demons bring. Regardless of the outcome, Palisade clinched a spot in the state tournament.

“It’s more than the X’s and O’s in these games,” Tafel said. “To get this deep in a tournament you need to have focus. We’re prepared for both these teams. It’s all about handling the ball and worrying about your stuff in the final.”

Palisade missed its first eight shots and fell behind 7-0 to Eagle Valley. The Bulldogs finished the first quarter down 7-4, but a deep 3-pointer from Tass Crow helped give them a 23-12 lead partway through the second quarter. Palisade continued the rocky offensive performance in the third quarter, though, scoring four points.

“Our kids don’t panic,” Tafel said. “We started making our shots. Our defensive pressure allowed us to make a run there in the second and go up. We knew it would help us, and in the end we pulled it out.”

Free throws came into play for the Bulldogs, who went 11 of 14, including a 6-for-6 stretch in the final 20 seconds. Tafel said his team has struggled with free throws this season, but the Bulldogs have found a rhythm during the district tournament.

“We haven’t been very good this year at the line,” Tafel said. “But we’ve done really well during the tournament. It’s more about focus and less about the physical aspects.”

Durango 38, Rifle 33: William Frownfelter scored 18 points to lead Durango (16-5). Rifle (12-9) plays Eagle Valley (15-6) in the third-place game at 11:30 a.m. at Brownson Arena.

Montrose 71, Battle Mountain 43: Montrose (9-13) outscored the Huskies 28-10 in the third quarter to take control. Ross Barney’s 18 points paced the Indians, who play Steamboat Springs in the fifth-place game.

Steamboat Springs 53, Glenwood Springs 47: The Sailors (11-10) made 17 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter, which accounted for all of their points in the quarter, as they held off a furious rally by the Demons (6-16).

Carter Kounovsky scored 17 points to led Steamboat.

Glenwood Springs play Battle Mountain (9-13) for seventh place and the final state tournament spot at 11:30 this morning at Central.

In other games, Plateau Valley scored at least 20 points in three quarters in an 85-30 rout of De Beque. Roaring Fork defeated Cedaredge 60-42 in 3A Western Slope League play.

Girls basketball

Delta turned the tables on Rifle in the second half as the Panthers (18-3) advanced to the final of the Class 4A Southwestern/Western Slope District girls basketball tournament with a 32-26 win.

After Rifle limited Delta to nine points in the first half to take a 17-9 lead, the Panthers limited the Bears to nine points in the second half, putting the game away by outscoring Rifle 12-4 in the fourth quarter. Callie Gafford scored six of her game-high 14 points in the final frame for Delta, winner of 18 straight games.

Second-seeded Delta will play top seed Montrose in the final at 1 this afternoon at Brownson Arena.

Montrose 52, Glenwood Springs 25: Holly Brooks scored 14 points and Kala Keltz added 10 for the Indians (17-4).

“We knew we had to be ready to play different styles,” Montrose coach Eric Sanchez said. “Palisade plays a different style than Glenwood Springs, who plays a different style than Delta, who we get tomorrow. We’re ready to make adjustments on the fly and play to the best of our abilities.”

Delaney Gaddis led Glenwood Springs (13-7) with 11 points.

Palisade 53, Eagle Valley 40: Seventh-seeded Palisade limited eighth-seeded Eagle Valley to 11 first-half points for a 10-point halftime lead en route to today’s fifth-place game against Durango (12-9) at 1 p.m. at Central.

Aspen Guray led the Bulldogs (11-12) with 12 points. Moriah Rayment, Cruz Maestas and Jenna Brown each scored nine.

Durango 54, Steamboat Springs 44, OT: Molly Barnes scored five of her game-high 26 points in overtime to lead the Demons (12-9), who outscored the Sailors (11-11) 10-5 in overtime.


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