Bulldog mentality: Palisade girls showing improvement

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Nicole Routhier hits the two VS Battlement Mesa HS.Art to go with Pat’s story.Sent as 012610NICOLEROUTHIER.

How different is the Palisade High School girls basketball team in one year?

The Bulldogs began the 2008-09 season with 10 straight losses, but saw some success once they hit the Western Slope League season. The Bulldogs ended with five wins, which included a Jan. 27 double-digit win against Delta.

This season, the Bulldogs began with 10 straight losses, but opened 3-3 in the first half of the league season. Palisade had strung two wins a row together, but Tuesday night, lost 52-44 to Delta.

On the surface, nothing appears to be very different. But watching Palisade (3-12, 3-4 WSL), it’s easy to see things are getting better.

“We keep telling them to believe,” second-year coach Toni Gunther said. “We know it’s coming along, and we are improved.” The one major difference for Palisade is the cohesiveness of this season’s team. The Bulldogs of 2009 never seemed to get the hang of Gunther’s system and coaching personality until late in the season. This season, the Bulldogs have only nine players on the varsity roster, but every player on the bench plays and contributes.

“They’ve all been working hard in practice and trying to figure it out,” Gunther said. “We are starting to get the payoff.”

A big part of the Bulldogs’ success has been refocusing on the defensive end. Palisade was handed a 81-37 loss by Rifle in its first WSL game, but turned it around defensively, giving up an average of 37 points per game over the past five contests.

“We have the mind-set of aggressiveness, and taking care of what we need to do on defense,” Gunther said. “When you don’t have the ball you can’t score, so we are trying to have the mentality to get the ball and good things will happen.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs are beginning to see solid production. After being limited to fewer than 30 points in five nonleague games, Palisade’s point total is up because of a tough inside-outside game. Players like Kailie Wallace (5-foot-10), Kendra Barnes (5-8), Olevia Shafer (5-9) and Bella Castleton (5-9) give the Bulldogs offensive scoring threats down low. The four players also helped to shore up Palisade’s rebounding, leading to second-chance points.

“Our posts have been playing well,” Palisade guard Meghan Peters said. “We are getting to them with correct post feeds, and they are taking care of it.”

Although Palisade has a slew of post players contributing, Peters has been a big key to the Bulldogs’ recent success. A 5-foot-5 senior guard, Peters runs the Bulldogs’ offense, has good shooting range and provides senior leadership on the court.

“Meghan is doing a nice job for us,” Gunther said. “She’s that person that starts our offense, and I’ve told the girls it’s hard to stop teams that can go inside then kick it back out.”

After the loss to Delta, Palisade enters one of its toughest stretches of the season. The Bulldogs host Glenwood Springs on Friday. Palisade lost to the Demons earlier in the year 45-38. On Saturday, Palisade takes on Class 5A Central, which defeated the Bulldogs 72-16 earlier in the season.

“We played some hard teams and we learned from that,” senior Nicole Routhier said. “But we’re pretty confident, and I think we’ll do well from here on out.”


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