Bulldogs prepared to take WSL’s best shot

Palisade’s Skylar Miller drives toward the basket during a Dec., 2012, game against Durango at Palisade High School.


Palisade Bulldogs

Head coach: Brian Tafel, second year

Last season: 17-6, 12-2 Western Slope League

Key Players: Senior Skyler Miller (first team All-WSL); senior Zach Marengo (second team All-WSL); senior Daniel Ness; senior Levi Hoaglund; senior Jacob Bollinger.

As the defending Western Slope League champ, the Palisade High School boys basketball team will be playing with a target on its back this season.

But that’s OK with second-year head coach Brian Tafel, who says senior leadership and athleticism will make the Bulldogs a league title contender again this season.

‘We’ve got a lot of seniors on the team, so that gives us an advantage because we don’t have to do as much teaching. We can get right into what we want to do,” Tafel said.

Two of those seniors are first-team All-Western Slope League guard Skyler Miller and second-team all-league big man Zach Marengo. Both averaged about 10 points a game last year.

Tafel said the Bulldogs won’t have a lot of height but they have will be able to put a number of good athletes on the court and that will make them competitive.

“With our size and athleticism, we’re not the tallest team around,” Tafel said. “We feel our bigs are very athletic, so we’ll want to speed the game up.”

Two of the bigs — Marengo and fellow football player Levi Hoaglund — will bring a physical brand of play to the court.

Both players are a little over 
6 feet, but their physicality in the paint should make up for their lack of height.

Tafel said rebounding and defense were big factors in the Bulldogs’ success last season when they went 17-6 overall and 12-2 in league play. This year should be no different.

“We hang our hat on defense and rebounding. Our man-to-man defense is what we do and what we pride ourselves on to do well,” Tafel said.

Guard play will be a key. Miller will be joined in the backcourt by senior Daniel Ness, and senior Tass Crow adds depth off the bench. All three are quick and athletic.

Tafel said the Bulldogs will have a lot of depth this year, which will allow them to press teams.

Tafel said he’s looking for a big year from Jacob Bollinger, a 6-3 senior. The coach said Bollinger can be effective from either the inside or outside.

The team lost four seniors to graduation but Tafel said all the returning seniors saw varsity playing time last season.

Miller said playing with those seniors was an invaluable experience.

“We definitely learned a lot playing with those seniors last year,” he said.

As the depending WSL champs, Miller said the Bulldogs are focused on making it two in a row.

“It was a great feeling last year but that was last year, this is a new year,” Miller said. “We’re going to look at it like we’ve never won it before and work just as hard or even harder this year.”

With a number of football players coming over from the successful Palisade football program, Tafel said that will be a major asset.

“I think it’s a toughness and an expectation to be successful,” he said. “Our football program is near the top every year and those kids have that mentality to win.”

Last season Palisade secured twin titles in winning the regular season league title, then winning the district tournament.

But the playoffs came to a screeching, heartbreaking end for the Bulldogs. After a tenacious comeback in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs, Palisade took the lead over Wheat Ridge, only to see a last-second 3-pointer hit the net to end the Bulldogs’ season in stunning fashion.

With an experienced, athletic team back, the Bulldogs should be right in the mix for another WSL title.


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