Twin titles for Palisade
4A WSL champion Bulldogs win district crown, too
The Palisade High School boys basketball team does not have anyone who can dunk.
But they do have 5-foot-6 Tass Crow.
In the first quarter of the Class 4A Southwestern/Western Slope District tournament championship game Saturday, Crow hit a jumper from some six feet behind the 3-point line. Palisade coach Brian Tafel said he knew it would go in.
He was right.
And the 4A Western Slope champion Bulldogs are now district champions with their 63-41 win over Durango at Brownson Arena.
“That’s kind of our dunk,” Tafel said of the Bulldogs’ ability to hit a deep 3. “(Crow) has that range. Almost the farther he gets away from the 3-point line, the more accurate he gets.”
The Bulldogs showcased on a college floor the scrappy, disciplined defense that has defined them since before Tafel took over. Palisade, primarily in man-to-man defense, held Durango to 12 first-half points.
Zach Shurden led No. 2-seeded Palisade (17-5) with 12 points. Jesus Aguirre added 10 for the Bulldogs.
Freshman Lucas Baken led top-seeded Durango (16-6) with 15 points and three 3-pointers.
Durango made a momentary push with four minutes remaining in the game with 3-pointers by Baken and William Frownfelter (15 points), but Palisade kept running, kept playing sticky defense.
And with Durango’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Nick Hamlin out with a sprained ankle, Palisade rarely let the Demons get within 20 points.
Aguirre, meanwhile, showed how a 6-foot-2 center can successfully post up a 6-foot-6 player such as Durango’s Trent Andrews: tricks. Dad tricks.
Aguirre said his father, Jesus Sr., who is about 5-foot-10, long ago showed him the art of slipping past taller players.
“It’s trying to be quick with confusing tricks,” Aguirre said. “Up and under, fake one side and go another, try and find an easier way to the rim, not force stuff, find a way to get around the defender and score.”
Even more, Andrews did not score.
On the outside, meanwhile, Palisade hit three 3-pointers, notably Crow’s deep 3-pointer midway through the first quarter that gave Palisade a 13-5 lead.
“I just felt like I was flowing,” Crow said. “So I shot it.”
Shurden made it a 21-5 lead early in the second quarter with a steal and layup.
“Our defense really spurred our offense a lot,” Tafel said. “Then we made some shots and were able to play some inside-outside and kind of get everybody involved. It was good to see finally all of our offense firing up a little more.”
Palisade scored in transition as well in half-court sets.
As the first half wound down, Luke McLean drove from the corner, squeezed past two defenders, then made a reverse layup that sent Palisade into halftime with a 29-12 lead.
“The game plan was just us being worried about what we do,” Aguirre said. “We were just worried about executing our plays; we weren’t worried about what those guys do. Just playing hard and playing smart.”
And just launching the occasional 26-foot jumper that Tafel believes can stun opponents like a dunk.