Defense key as Bulldogs shut down Eagle Valley

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL

PALISADE 59, EAGLE VALLEY 49

UP NEXT: Central boys at Palisade, 7 p.m. today

Central girls at Palisade,  5:30 p.m. today

By NICK WALTER

Give them defense like they’ve never seen before, Palisade boys basketball coach Steve Phillips told his players Friday.

And then in a 59-49 win over Eagle Valley in the Class 4A Western Slope opener for the Bulldogs, the players knew exactly what that meant.

“It’s in-your-face, bring-it, here-we-come defense,” explained guard Caleb Hall. “It’s the pride. It’s what Palisade does.”

And here the Bulldogs come. Palisade (7-2, 1-0 Western Slope) has won seven straight, and although it was a bit sluggish from the holiday downtime, its man-to-man defense survived the break.

Kane Gunther led the Bulldogs with 20 points despite first-half foul trouble that led to him sitting on the bench the final few minutes of the first half.

No matter. Palisade’s bench is so deep Phillips can tell his players to stick their sneakers in an opponents’ personal space from the first quarter to the fourth.

Jered Kusal (nine points), Jesus Aguirre (eight points) and Hall (seven points) came off the bench and provided stops to allow Palisade’s fastbreak offense to run — when it ran.

“It was kind of ugly,” Phillips said, “but we ain’t giving it back.”

Girls

Palisade rallied from 27-16 down at halftime to grab a 53-51 win over Eagle Valley.

The Bulldogs (3-6, 1-0) went on a 9-0 run in the second half that began with two Emily Crow jump shots.

Just before the third quarter ended, Mercedez Taylor stole an inbounds pass and drove to the basket for a 3-point play that put the Bulldogs up 40-39.

Palisade outscored the Devils 24-12 in the quarter.

“I’m not real sure what happened,” Crow said of her dribble-drives and jump shots that had Eagle Valley confused. “We were just hitting shots and playing ‘D.’ “

Hannah Talbott led Palisade with 11 points. Crow and Taylor added eight apiece.

“We just believed we could do it,” said Katie Dunn, who had seven points.

“We were out of it mentally,” Eagle Valley coach Sam Bartlett said. “They beat us off the dribble too much.”


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