Shutdown defense: Palisade boys don’t let Eagle Valley get open looks in win

Kane Gunther goes over teammate Luke McLean to score two of his 17 points Saturday in Palisade’s 38-28 victory over Eagle Valley. Gunther also had 11 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ win.

Most teams would like allowing an opponent to score 28 points in a half.

For the Palisade High School boys basketball team, that’s wasn’t good enough.

Saturday at Palisade, the Bulldogs frustrated Eagle Valley’s offense in a 38-28 victory.

“We did what we are suppose to do on a lot of possessions,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “Twenty-eight points in unheard of.”

The Bulldogs (8-10, 4-3 Western Slope League) had been allowing an average of 51 points per game this season, but put on a defensive clinic Saturday.

Despite Eagle Valley boasting a 6-foot-6 and a 6-4 player in its frontcourt, Palisade played a man-to-man defense and focused on limiting second- and third-chance opportunities to the Devils.

“We aren’t that big, but we did a good job coming out defensively,” Phillips said. “We did a much better job of blocking out, and it was great team defense by the kids.”

The Bulldogs fell behind 4-0 in the first quarter, but went on a 9-0 run over the final five minutes of the quarter.

In the second quarter, Palisade’s Kane Gunther got into a groove, scoring seven points to propel the Bulldogs to a 22-13 halftime lead.

“We were much more patient offensively,” Phillips said. “We try to score on every possession, because it’s not how many times you shoot it, but how many times you score.”

Palisade continued to dominate defensively in the third quarter, holding Eagle Valley to six points. The Bulldogs had a 29-19 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

A big part of Palisade’s defensive success was junior forward Gabe Hellmann. The 6-3 Hellmann came up with five steals, and kept the Devils from getting the ball into the post.

“We played tough defense and just got after it,” Hellmann said. “I was just watching the ball, and anticipating where they were going so I could get my hands on it.”

Phillips said Hellmann stood out to him defensively.

“He was really active and probably played his best game of the year,” Phillips said. “You don’t always know he’s out there, but he always seems to be around the ball defensively.”

Eagle Valley made a run in the fourth quarter to close the deficit to 31-28 with two minutes remaining. The Bulldogs broke the Devils’ defensive-press on the ensuing possession with Luke McLean scoring a fast-break layup to push Palisade’s lead back to five at 33-28.

“Tonight was our most patient game,” Hellmann said. “We executed our offense, even thought we didn’t score that much.”

Gunther led the Bulldogs with 17 points and 11 rebounds in a must-win game after dropping two in a row.

“Hats off to the kids tonight,” Phillips said. “I’m proud of them for working their tails off to get a win.”

Zeth Ramsey led the Devils with eight points and also had five blocks.


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