Bulldogs win inside battle
Strong start by interior players lifts Palisade boys
Zach Marengo and Jesus Aguirre are listed on the roster at 6-foot-2. Levi Hoaglund is 6-1 and Caden Woods 5-11.
That’s fine size for guards and small forwards in high school boys basketball, but not exactly the height conducive to making a living in the post.
But for Palisade, the post players use combinations of bulk, strength, athleticism and determination to compensate for lack of height and give the Bulldogs the ability to pound the ball inside.
That was the case Friday night as Palisade (5-2) went inside constantly for the first quarter-and-a-half, then worked inside-outside thereafter to defeat Montezuma-Cortez 71-62 on the second day of the Palisade Sunrise Rotary Club Invitational.
“We talk about playing inside-out,” Bulldogs coach Brian Tafel said. “When we can score inside and outside, I think that makes us really tough to play against.”
Aside from Aguirre draining a jump shot from the free-throw line three minutes into the game, the Bulldogs did all of their damage underneath the basket, be it fastbreak layups, drives to the basket, passes into the lane, putbacks or second-chance shots. That staked Palisade to a 24-13 lead.
Then, Skyler Miller showed the Panthers another dimension of the Bulldogs’ offense, hitting a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half for a 27-15 lead. He dropped in another 3-pointer with 34 seconds left in the half for a 36-22 lead.
“Our bigs really help open up the outside, especially early,” said Miller, who finished with 13 points and did some damage with drives to the basket as well, whether it was finishing for a layup or passing for an assist.
“Skyler provides a huge boost when he’s hitting 3s,” Tafel said.
Miller’s third and final 3-pointer came midway through the third quarter. After he missed a 3-pointer, Palisade got the rebound and kicked the ball back to Miller, who dribbled to an open spot behind the arc on the right baseline and swished that attempt.
Balance was the other order of the day on offense as six Bulldogs scored at least eight points. Marengo matched Miller with 13 points. Aguirre followed with 12, and Hoaglund, Woods and Jacob Bollinger each added eight.
Marengo and Hoaglund bring to the post the bulk and toughness that made them starters on the line for Palisade’s football team, while Woods was a fullback and linebacker not to be trifled with. Aguirre is a smooth player who can play with his back to the basket or face it. Bollinger at 6-3 is the team’s tallest player, and he hit a couple of baskets in the fourth quarter when the Panthers made a run.
Their productivity pushed Palisade’s lead to 21 points entering the final quarter, and two free throws by Hoaglund with 5:21 left in the contest gave the Bulldogs’ their largest lead, 59-36. That’s when Montezuma-Cortez decided to make things interesting.
The Panthers fed Brackin Whiteskunk the ball on the wings, and he sank 3-pointer after 3-pointer, four of them in a span of 2 minutes, 41 seconds. His 3 with 2:03 remaining made it 65-53, and Jason Carver’s layup with 1:41 left cut the deficit to 10 points.
Tafel had seen enough of Whiteskunk’s shooting clinic and inserted into the lineup Quincy Campbell, one of three players brought up from the junior varsity for this week’s tourney. Campbell’s instructions were simple: Don’t let Whiteskunk catch the ball, and for the most part, he accomplished his mission.
“He’s worked his tail off in practice all week,” Tafel said of Campbell. “He’s a heck of an athlete, a really tough kid. He’s the type of defender who can guard a kid like that.”
Whiteskunk finished with a game-high 19 points.
“I give Cortez a ton of credit,” Tafel said. “They battled the whole game and never quit. Thirty-three (Whiteskunk), he got in one of those grooves. We got a hand in his face, and he still made big, big shots.”
Pueblo West 60, Central 44: Central made a run at the No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A girls basketball, trailing only 25-21 at halftime before eventually losing to the undefeated Cyclones (10-0).
Pueblo West outscored Central 17-7 in the third quarter and was led by Daisy Romero’s 17 points and Taylor Leyva’s 11 points.
The Warriors trailed 14-6 after the first quarter, but rallied to outscore Pueblo West 15-11 in the second quarter.
Palisade 42, Montezuma-Cortez 27: Cruz Maestas had 14 points and Moriah Rayment added 10 points as Palisade defeated Montezuma-Cortez on the second day of the Palisade Sunrise Rotary Club Invitational.
Palisade outscored Cortez 14-4 in the second quarter.