Palisade's defensive effort results in first-round victory
Kane Gunther and the Bulldogs were hungry.
The Palisade High School boys basketball team was hungry to put the Bulldogs’ recent struggles behind them and get the playoffs started off on the right foot.
The Bulldogs did, defeating Palmer Ridge 68-52 on Tuesday night in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Palisade.
“We really wanted to get a win tonight,” Gunther said. “We had a great team effort and our defense was key to our win.
“We stuck to our game plan. We knew defense would be the key. I couldn’t be more proud of our team tonight.”
Gunther led Palisade with 28 points. Kyle Monger scored 12, Jesus Aguirre and Connor Whaley had nine each.
“(Gunther) played within himself tonight,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “He proved a little bit why I think he can play at the next level and what a competitor. Other guys fed off of him.”
Eric Marty led the Bears with 21 points.
Palisade (18-6) advances to Friday’s second round, playing No. 2 seed Pueblo Central (16-7) at 6:30 p.m. at the Colorado State Fair Events Center.
The Bulldogs limited Palmer Ridge (8-16) to 17 field goals and 34.7 percent shooting from the floor.
“The key was our team defense and our team rebounding,” Phillips said. “I thought we rebounded as well as we have all year long. We didn’t guard the 3 the way we needed to. We talked about playing so hard help-side. We knew they were going to shoot a lot of perimeter shots, but we got them to miss some of those and limit them to one shot.”
On the other end, Palisade attacked the basket.
When the Bulldogs weren’t making layups, they were drawing fouls and shooting free throws.
Palisade shot 30 free throws, making 19 (63 percent).
Palisade built a 15-11 led by the end of the first quarter and pushed it to a 10-point lead midway through the second. Palmer Ridge made a late run in the second quarter, but Palisade led 25-19 at halftime.
The Bulldogs went on a 12-2 run to lead by 18 late in the third quarter.
“I thought our kids responded well to some of the things we talked about at halftime,” Phillips said.
That was keeping the pressure on Palmer Ridge with a full-court press, taking care of the ball and attacking the basket.
“In doing that, we still got to attack the rim, which I thought we did a much better job,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to attack the paint and do some of the dirty work to create some opportunities for us.”
Gunther led the way, scoring 11 points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer to get the Bulldogs going and back-to-back layups with a free throw after one of the layups.
Gunther continued to shine in the fourth quarter, scoring six points on putbacks.
“That’s what great players do,” Phillips said. “They come up with great tip-ins. He hit a big 3 coming out of halftime and that’s not one of our better attributes.”