Third-quarter run helps Palisade advance in playoffs
For the first two quarters, Wednesday’s first-round Class 4A state boys basketball playoff game between Palisade and Evergreen looked similar to the Bulldogs’ first-round loss to Wheat Ridge last season.
A favored Palisade squad hosting jump-shooting underdogs, and even the blue and gold uniforms donned by Evergreen looked similar to those worn by Wheat Ridge.
Evergreen stayed close during the first half, but a workmanlike performance from Bobby DeSantis and hot shooting from Marques Combs allowed the Bulldogs, who led wire-to-wire, to pull away during the third quarter and win 53-44.
“Obviously (the loss to Wheat Ridge) is in the back of your mind,” Palisade coach Brian Tafel said. “But tonight, I mean, we’re a different team. We played well.
“Players like Bobby DeSantis and Quincy Campbell and our guards like Daniel (Ness) and Tass (Crow) and Skyler (Miller), the defensive pressure they were able to put on them tonight was the key to the game. We didn’t finish a lot of our offensive stuff, we missed a lot of wide-open 3s and layups, but we never let up on the defensive end, and that was really key for us tonight.”
Evergreen’s leading scorer, Nathan Haas, was out with an ACL strain in his left knee. The junior point guard averaged 15.9 points per game and was among the top 25 scorers in Class 4A. With his absence, Evergreen’s Princeton offense struggled to find rhythm. The sometimes overly aggressive Palisade defense had to maintain discipline as Evergreen slowed down the pace.
Tafel said Palisade’s focus in practice was to avoid overpursuing cutting players.
“We spent all week practicing — you know we’re the kind of team that likes to get out and deny and put pressure on teams, so it’s not a great matchup for us — on not overplaying these guys,” Tafel said. “I think we still gave up a couple back-door stuff, but for the most part I’m really proud of the way our kids made adjustments and were able to play the way they play without giving up the intensity and the aggressiveness.”
Although the Cougars’ offense struggled and committed 17 first-half turnovers, Lucas Weidner scored all 15 of his points in the first half, including three 3-pointers to close the deficit to 26-22 at half.
After halftime, the Bulldogs ignited a 7-0 run sparked by a 3-pointer from Combs and capped by two buckets from Zach Marengo. Marengo and Combs scored nine points apiece. DeSantis, a senior forward known more for his defense than offense, led the Bulldogs with a career-high 10 points. In blue-collar fashion, DeSantis earned a large portion of his points at the free-throw line.
“It feels good,” DeSantis said. “Just wanted to go out with a win. I mean, it’s my last year here, so I wanted to go out big. I just wanted to have fun. It could have been our last game.”
Marengo said the first-round win takes pressure off the Bulldogs.
“We come in last year and lose by a buzzer-beater, that was huge in motivating us this year,” Marengo said. “I really think this win, and getting past this game, will help us be the team we can be.
“I didn’t really think about the Wheat Ridge game. I mean, I remember them and I remember that game, but I kind of put it out of my mind this game and was just focused on getting the win.”
Lewis-Palmer 63, Montrose 45: Lewis-Palmer led by four points at the half, then broke open the 4A first-round playoff game by outscoring the Indians 30-8 in the third quarter.
Chase Stone made four 3-pointers and led the Rangers (13-11) with 18 points.
Montrose ended its season 9-14.
Pueblo Central 78, Delta 61: Pueblo Central (15-9) trailed by two points at the half, but took control of the 4A first-round playoff by outscoring the Panthers 23-8 in the third quarter.
Keaton Reiher made six 3-pointers and led Delta (11-13) with 24 points.