Palisade boys rally after Marengo's injury to win
As Monteuzma-Cortez High School players were going to the rim with regularity Saturday, Palisade boys basketball coach Brian Tafel remained patient.
The Panthers got 18 points in the paint and on fast breaks in the first quarter and jumped to 19-6 lead. But the Bulldogs methodically fought their way back into the game and pulled away for a 67-53 win at the Palisade Sunrise Rotary Club Tournament.
With the Panthers flying up and down the court and scoring easy baskets inside, Tafel refused to call a timeout.
“We didn’t come out ready to go and that’s on me,” he said. “Our transition defense was really bad to start the game. But we dealt with that adversity and that was good.”
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 19-10 to end the first quarter, then kept working.
Senior Tass Crow was in the middle of the comeback. He hit four free throws, including three straight after being fouled on a 3-pointer.
When Jacob Bollinger nailed his second 3-pointer of the game, the Bulldogs took a 26-23 with 3:34 remaining in the second quarter and never trailed again.
Palisade kept building the lead — Ian Schierland hit five free throws and Bollinger scored off a nice assist from Skyler Miller — and the Bulldogs were ahead 42-36 midway through the third quarter.
That’s when things took a bad turn for Palisade.
Zach Marengo, who had 11 points, went down with a scary-looking injury after getting his leg caught and twisted back on a defender’s foot. The senior howled in pain with what the team says is a sprained left ankle. Palisade is hoping he will be back after the Christmas break.
The injury seemed to deflate the Bulldogs for a short time and Montezuma-Cortez hit two quick baskets to cut the lead to 42-40.
Palisade (6-2) then regrouped and started pouring it on.
Bollinger hit a basket, then Crow drilled a 3-pointer to push the lead to 47-40.
Bollinger, who had 19 points, picked up his scoring after Marengo went out. He sank a baseline jumper, then took a couple of steps back the next time down and swished a 3-pointer for a 54-43 lead.
Crow, who had 10 points, said the Bulldogs focused on shutting down the Panthers’ fast-break game.
“We went in at halftime and talked about playing better transition defense,” he said.
On offense, it was all about working the ball and finding the open shot against the Panthers’ zone.
“Coach said we had to get better spacing and that’s what we did,” said Bollinger, who had three of Palisade’s five 3-pointers.
Palisade got a good team effort, with nine different players scoring and a steady steam of substitutes rotating in and out.
“We have a real deep group and we have great chemistry with this team,” Tafel said.
Palisade, the defending Western Slope League champs, went 3-0 in the tournament, outscoring their opponents — Rifle, Durango and Montezuma-Cortez — 176-140.