‘Dogs embrace February Madness

Palisade can clinch 4A Slope title this week

Jesus Aguirre and the Palisade boys basketball team can wrap up the 4A Western Slope League title this week.



QUICKREAD

Kansas guard Ben McLemore (23) rebounds against Kansas State guard Martavious Irving (3) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)



There’s something different going on with the Palisade boys basketball team this week.

February Madness, if you will.

“It’s March Madness for us players,” Bulldogs guard Caden Woods said.

It’s simple for Palisade: Win its first two games this week at Glenwood Springs at 7:30 p.m. tonight and at Eagle Valley on Friday and the Bulldogs are the Class 4A Western Slope League champions.

Lose either, and just like last season, the league title could come down to a home game against Delta. Palisade hosts the Panthers at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Palisade (11-5, 9-2 4A WSL) is just ahead of second-place Eagle Valley (13-4, 9-3).

Delta, which hosts Summit on Friday and defeated Palisade in the teams’ first meeting, is in third place (10-7, 8-4).

Even before next weekend’s district playoffs at Colorado Mesa University, the playoffs essentially are here for Palisade.

“You get a little more focused,” said Jesus Aguirre, who leads Palisade in scoring at 9.4 points per game. “Every little detail is blown up a little more, becomes a little more crucial.”

But first is Glenwood Springs (5-12, 4-8).

Palisade is coming off a 52-40 home loss to Steamboat Springs on Friday.

“With how the league’s been the past few weeks, it’s been crazy,” Palisade coach Brain Tafel said.

“Teams have lost that we didn’t think were going to lose. Teams have gotten better. Steamboat is a lot better. Rifle’s on a roll. We’ve got to go into Glenwood and get back to doing what we’ve been doing.”

DELTA GIRLS STREAKING

After becoming co-4A Western Slope League champions last season along with Glenwood Springs and Moffat County, the Delta girls basketball team made it a point this season to not share the title with anyone.

With two games remaining against Summit on Friday and at Palisade on Saturday, the Panthers (14-3, 12-0) have already clinched the league title.

They’ve also won 14 consecutive games.

The wins came after losing to three bigger teams from the Southwestern League: Grand Junction, Montrose and Fruita Monument. At that point, Delta was the only team of the four that had not won a game.

“It kind of opened our eyes to where we were at,” Delta coach Matt Hamm said.

Delta is led by point guard Skylyn Webb, who on Friday scored 29 points and hit a buzzer-beating layup in the Panthers’ 58-56 win at Glenwood Springs.

Webb, a senior who has committed to play basketball at Fort Lewis College, is averaging 21.7 points, 3.3 assists and 1.9 steals.

“She’s just become more confident at taking games over,” Hamm said. “I always had seen glimpses since her freshman year, but this year she hasn’t allowed us to lose any big games.”

Delta, ranked No. 12 in 4A, has been countering down low with Callie Gafford, also a senior, who is averaging 15.9 points and 10 rebounds.

NEXT YEAR FOR GJ SWIMMING

Grand Junction’s girls swimming season ended at last weekend’s Class 5A state championship with the Tigers having qualified Taylor Kidd individually in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly. The Tigers also qualified three relays.

However, none placed and Tigers coach Janet Ryan is looking for something to change, particularly more year-round swimmers, in the future.

“I thought it was a great season,” Ryan said. “We really had a lot of girls who improved. We’ve still got a young team coming up and we’ve just got to work hard and try to get some more girls swimming year-round.”

PAONIA GIRLS EYE TITLE

The Paonia girls are yet another basketball team that will be playing its final regular season games with the league title on the line.

Tied with Rangely (11-5, 6-0) and Meeker (15-1, 6-0) atop the 1A/2A Western Slope League standings, Paonia (13-3, 6-0) plays both teams this weekend.

Paonia is at Rangely at 5:30 p.m. Friday and at home against Meeker at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Eagles end their regular season at Hotchkiss (10-5, 4-1) next Tuesday.

Paonia has won 10 consecutive games, including a 41-39 win against Class 4A Rifle on Feb. 5 in which Braiden Clement hit a game-winning buzzer-beater.

Eagles coach Scott Rienks said Carson Pipher, Chelsea Reed, Abby Campbell and Annavah Kropp all average between eight and 11 points per game.

“If we play the way we did against Rifle this week,” Rienks said, “we’ll be OK.”


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