Free throws help ‘Dogs top Bears
Palisade’s Kyle Monger got the shooter’s roll when it counted.
Friday night against Rifle in the Palisade Sunrise Rotary Club Invitation, Monger was at the free-throw line looking to extend the Bulldogs’ 52-49 lead with nine seconds remaining.
After missing his first free throw, Monger’s second shot rolled around the rim and fell in to give the Bulldogs a four-point cushion, 53-49.
Monger’s insurance point was necessary after Rifle’s Von Church raced up the floor and hit a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining. But the Bears were out of timeouts and Palisade ran out the clock for the 53-52 win.
“There was some pressure but the last one rolled in,” said Monger, a junior. “All my teammates did a great job to help us get this win.” Coming off the bench, Monger finished the game with six points and was 2 of 7 from the free-throw line, but made the shot when it mattered most.
“Kyle stepped up and made those free throws,” Palisade guard Caleb Hall said. “That was the difference.”
Friday’s game was the only time this season the Bulldogs (3-5) will play their former league rivals. Rifle (1-2) moved down to the Class 3A Western Slope League, but the game still had a conference feel to it.
“They are a good basketball team,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “They have all the pieces, they don’t give up, they are well-coached and they play good defense.” The two teams traded the lead in the first half, with Palisade falling behind 19-14 with less than two minutes left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs made a run, led by Kane Gunther hitting four free throws and Monger putting in an offensive rebound at the end of the half to put Palisade ahead 23-19 at halftime.
Palisade added to its lead in the third quarter with Hall giving the Bulldogs a 35-27 lead with a bank shot.
Hall finished with 12 points, including a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to give Palisade a 40-34 lead.
“I had to do something to get the guys going,” Hall said. “But we were circulating the ball and everyone was getting touches.”
Gunther helped keep the cushion by going 10 for 10 from the free-throw line for a game-high 21 points.
“Tonight we finished,” Phillips said. “We want to get another tomorrow and feel really good going into the break.”
The win was the third in a row for the Bulldogs after beginning the season 0-5.
Rifle had three players finish in double-figures, led by Taylor Boone’s 16 points. Rian Creech and Church both added 15 points.
Palisade finishes the tournament today at 2:30 p.m. against Moffat County.