Last-second shot costs Palisade comeback victory in 4A playoffs

Wheat Ridge’s Danny Allen, 33, celebrates with his teammates Wednesday night after stunning the Palisade fans with a last-second 3-pointer to lift the Farmers to a 55-53 victory over the Bulldogs in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

Zach Marengo, 42 and Palisade struggled to find an offensive rhythm Wednesday night until a late-game surge nearly led to a win. A last-second 3-pointer by Wheat Ridge’s Danny Allen lifted the Farmers to a 55-53 victory in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

The miracle looked like it was going to be the Palisade High School boy basketball team’s furious fourth-quarter comeback to avoid an upset and remain alive in the state playoffs. Instead, it was what Wheat Ridge did with time about to expire.

With Palisade inbounding on Wheat Ridge’s end of the court, the Farmers’ Danny Allen intercepted an overthrown lob pass with just over two seconds on the clock. Standing several feet behind the 3-point arc on the left wing, Allen turned around and hit a fade-away 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded for a 55-53 victory in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament at Palisade, which was seeded fifth in the region.

Wheat Ridge (9-15), the region’s 12th seed, plays at fourth-seeded Widefield (17-6) in a regional quarterfinal Friday. Widefield had a first-round bye.

“The last play we were just trying to finish up the clock, and it didn’t work out that way when we couldn’t get the ball in,” Palisade senior Jesus Aguirre said. “He made a shot, and it went in. There’s nothing you can do about that. It’s not like any of us are 7-foot-9 and could block it.”

The last-second 3-pointer cost the Bulldogs (17-6) the game in heartbreaking fashion after they had climbed back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to lead in the final moments.

The Farmers struggled at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, making three of 11 tries, and the Bulldogs seized on the opportunities, using defense to climb back into the game. At one point, Palisade cut short five straight Wheat Ridge possessions with steals.

All season, the Bulldogs faced teams with a height advantage over them, and Wheat Ridge was no different. Led by two 6-4 players, the Farmers raced to an early lead. Post player Stefan Pryzbylo had four blocks in the first quarter and finished the game with eight rebounds despite never scoring.

Wheat Ridge guard Stefan Hackethal caused problems from the perimeter, making three of seven attempts from beyond the arc and finishing with 24 points, capping his fifth, 20-point game of the season with a fast-break dunk.

“It’s a tough one,” Palisade coach Brian Tafel said. “I feel just awful for our kids, because they’ve had an incredible season, and to fight all the way back to take the lead like we did and to lose on one play. Their kid made a play, a big shot. Wheat Ridge battled all night.

“I’m devastated for our kids, and I’m really going to miss our seniors. I wouldn’t trade any of these kids for anyone on anybody’s team.”

Aguirre led the Bulldogs with 12 points despite battling foul trouble. Junior guard Skyler Miller also chipped in 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

Aguirre said the ending wasn’t ideal, but he hopes the underclassmen will use the loss as fuel.

“I had a flashback through my high school career, you know, it all went right through me,” Aguirre said. “It was just hanging on a string right there. (The shot) could have gone in, it could have gone out. I hope (my teammates) use that moment in the offseason and get better because of it.”

The Bulldogs will return three starters next season. 

“I told them I loved them,” Tafel said of his postgame speech. “I told them that this senior class was huge for us in terms of making progress as a program. We made steps last year. We made even bigger steps this year. For our underclassmen to play through this, in a playoff environment with this incredible crowd and support from our community is something to be proud of looking forward.”


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