Closing time: Palisade boys recover after getting complacent

Caleb Hall from Palisade High School hits a long three in the first hal

Palisade High School boys basketball coach Steve Phillips has been patrolling sidelines long enough to know when he needs to teach a lesson.

Although, the Bulldogs cruised to a 74-49 win over Battle Mountain, the coach with more than 25 years of experience proved a very important point to his players in the process.

Saturday night at Palisade, the Bulldogs (7-6, 4-2 Western Slope League) were leading Battle Mountain 52-34 in the third quarter. But a series of offensive possessions that ended in either a turnover or poor shot attempt prompted Phillips to make a change. Because they weren’t playing up to Phillips’ standards, the second-year Bulldogs’ coach pulled his starting five with four minutes remaining and replaced them with bench players.

“I think the biggest message is we’ve got other guys on the bench that can play,” Phillips said. “You have to continue to do the things that got us to where we are in the game. The score doesn’t matter if you aren’t taking care of every possession.”

The Huskies cut the lead to 53-41, but motivated the Palisade starters in the process. For the Palisade players, the message was crystal clear.

The Bulldogs went on a 17-3 run to begin the fourth quarter highlighted by three straight 3-pointers by Nate Yanez and Jeremy Hayden. Defensively, the Bulldogs played with a sense of urgency again. Players like Caleb Hall and Dakota Bond went aggressively after every rebound and loose ball.

“We felt we had a chip on our shoulder to come out and play better,” Palisade starting guard Kane Gunther said. “It was good the way we came back and went on a run.”

The late run was similar to an early scoring rush where Palisade jumped out to a 28-15 first-quarter lead. The Bulldogs made six 3-pointers in the first quarter, including three by Hayden.

“If we play within the system, those shots will be open,” Phillips said. “We have a lot of kids who can score, and I’m happy for them.”

Hayden’s 26 points led Palisade’s balanced-scoring attack. Yanez finished with 19 and Kane Gunther had 12 points.

“The expectations are high for these guys, so I’m going to be hard on them. But they know that and respect that,” Phillips said. “They’re doing a great job.”

The lopsided win over the Huskies gives Palisade its first back-to-back wins of the league season after defeating Eagle Valley on Friday night.

“They are starting to understand what’s going on and having success with it,” Phillips said. “We are going so fast and furious this time of year that we don’t have a lot of time to enjoy it because we have to get ready for the next one.”

With the two weekend wins, the Bulldogs stay in the WSL race with league leaders Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs.

“This was an important weekend, and I think we sent a message,” Gunther said.

Palisade hosts Delta on Tuesday night.


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