Bulldogs play hard, but can’t top Aspen

The Palisade Bulldogs dug themselves a hole, got out of it, then let a victory slip away.

The Aspen High School boys basketball team managed to keep its undefeated record intact Tuesday night with a 65-61 victory at Palisade.

Zach Babich led the Skiers (7-0) with 19 points. Andrew Papenfus had 16.

Palisade (4-6) was led by Jeremy Hayden with 25 points. Kane Gunther added 21.

“We played really hard against a good basketball team,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “We got over the hump and had a nice lead, we just need to learn how to finish. That comes with time.

“I’m proud of our defensive effort and we were better on offense (than the past games). We played at a six or seven speed tonight; the way we needed to against a very good basketball team. I’m not disappointed at all other than the loss, obviously.”

Early on, Aspen looked like it would easily pick up another victory, going on a 16-0 run and taking an 18-9 lead after the first quarter.

The Skiers scored several layups with backdoor cuts, shooting 50 percent from the floor in the first half.

Palisade, though, adjusted its defense and slowly climbed its way back, pulling within eight at halftime. Hayden led the way, scoring 13 of the Bulldogs’ first 16 points.

“We tried to front (the players cutting to the basket) a little bit and played good help-side (defense),” Phillips said. “They are such a good screening team and run a nice motion offense. We can do better finishing. We’ve got to block out and get the rebound. When we get that figured out we’ll convert on the offensive end.”

Palisade continued to play better defense in the second half and took a 41-40 lead at the end of the third quarter when Caleb Hall scored a layup to break the Aspen press.

Gunther hit a 3-pointer and scored on a drive to the basket to give the Bulldogs a 50-45 lead with 5:31 left.

Palisade turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions and Aspen took the lead for good on two Babich free throws, 60-58.

“We gave up a 5-point play in two possessions, trying to dribble through a double-team and lost our composure,” Phillips said. “That’s all it takes against great teams in tough games when it’s close like that. You’ve got to take care of every possession.”

Hall hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left to get the Bulldogs within three, but Papenfus pushed the lead to four with a free throw.

Central 76, Rifle 47

Josh Wells scored 22 points and had 12 rebounds in the Warriors’ (6-5) most lopsided win of the season.

“He was handling the ball well and going to the hole strong,” Central coach Phil Cain said. “This was big and hopefully gives us some momentum going into league.”

The Warriors jumped out to a 38-22 halftime lead and kept the pressure on in the second half.

“We are still working, but this was our most complete game,” Cain said.

Cain added he’s seeing areas of emphasis translate from practice to games. Tuesday night it was the Warriors’ free-throw shooting. Central shot 20 of 27 from the line.

Taylor Sanchez and Spencer Hicks both had double-figures for the Warriors as Sanchez finished with 16 and Hicks added 10.

Central begins Southwestern League play on Friday at Fruita Monument.


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