Palisade boys face tough task in first game after break

Palisade’s Levi Hoaglund was one of the players coach Brian Tafel praised for the way he was playing before the long Christmas break.



It’s an environment they crave: massive student section, a three-hour drive from home, one of the top teams in the league.

Welcome back from break, Palisade.

The Bulldogs boys basketball team (5-3, 3-0 4A Western Slope League) will play at Steamboat Springs at 7:30 p.m. today. They will leave town the same day, and according to Steamboat Springs Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe, drive through a forecast trace of snow ahead of a possible storm Saturday.

Palisade also hopes to escape with a particularly satisfying win, having said “adios” to Steamboat’s talented sophomore class led by Garrett Bye.

“I think most of us get excited because it’s a lot of fun when you’re in front of people who are so loud,” Palisade senior Luke McLean said. “Even if it’s not your fans and they’re going against you, it’s still fun going against a team like that.”

Despite having 11 4A WSL games remaining, and with so many teams in the league capable of beating one another, Palisade coach Brian Tafel knows a win at Steamboat (6-1, 2-1) would be the perfect way to begin the second half.

“I’m happy with our schedule coming out of the break, having some adversity and driving through a snowstorm, playing at a tough place with a tough crowd,” Tafel said. “You can’t simulate that.”

Palisade has no superstars. Its leading scorer is Jesus Aguirre at 8.5 points per game. The 6-foot-2 senior often will be matched against the 6-9 Bye.

“I might have teammates who will have to box him out and give us the best chance of getting rebounds,” Aguirre said.

Palisade has six players averaging at least four points per game: Zach Marengo (6.6), McLean (5.5) Zach Shurden (5.4), Daniel Ness (4.8), Caden Woods (4.0) and Skyler Miller (4.0).

“Skyler Miller is really coming along and has improved a lot,” Tafel said. “Levi Hoaglund also was playing better going into the break. He’s a tough rebounder; he’s strong and just kind of getting his confidence.”

CENTRAL game CANCELED

The Central girls basketball game against Legend on Saturday has been canceled because of a forecast storm, Warriors Athletic Director Randy Powell announced Thursday.

Too bad for the Warriors, who have been chin-up proud.

Not just because of overcoming an 11-point deficit Tuesday for a 54-52 win at Palisade. Before the break, the Warriors hung with the No. 4 team in Class 4A, Pueblo West, trailing 25-21 at halftime before losing 60-44.

One game before that, Central beat Cheyenne South 47-46.

The 4-8 Warriors are on pace to surpass their 6-17 record last season. Taryn Smith, who hit the buzzer-beater against Palisade, also has been a defensive stopper.

“It’s been hard taking Taryn off the floor,” first-year Central coach Mary Doane said.

Senior Jordan Eller binds the group.

“She’s just got a real good IQ,” Doane said.

Point guard Tyler Hays, of course, took over against Palisade, scoring 20 points, and D’Kota Brodie is securing the paint.

“It all comes down to competing and effort,” Doane said, “and that’s what kept them in the game against Pueblo West.”

Another ranked team

The Grand Junction girls basketball team (10-1), which before Christmas lost its No. 10 ranking in 5A after a 63-55 loss to Pueblo West — then the No. 3 team in Class 4A — will go against one of the state’s best.

At 7 p.m. today, the Tigers play at Chaparral (8-2). The Wolverines dominated their three games in the December Fruita Monument Wildcat Invitational. They did not play Grand Junction.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, starting center/forward Shafer Rubalcaba has not fully recovered from a sprained ankle. Tigers coach Sam Provenza said Rubalcaba, who averages 6.6 points per game, is questionable but will return for the 
Jan. 18 Southwestern League game at Montrose, the No. 10 team in Class 4A (Montrose does not play until then).

Chaparral is led by seniors Katie Longwell (11.7 points per game) and Katrina Bacovcin (11.1).

Longwell committed to play at the University of Northern Colorado alongside former Grand Junction standout Jamie Derrieux. According to the Twitter page of Chaparral coach Tony Speights, Bacovcin in September committed to play at Idaho State University.

“They’re pretty confident in what they do,” Provenza said.

But Provenza hopes the Tigers’ speed can neutralize Chaparral’s athleticism.

“I feel like we’ve got some presses in us we can throw out there and disrupt them a little bit,” Provenza said. “We have to be aggressive; if we stay on our heels we’re in trouble.”

On Saturday, the Tigers play at noon at ThunderRidge.

Putting the ‘I’ in Team

Fruita Monument wrestling coach Dan Van Hoose doesn’t want his wrestlers to focus on the team. Not during a match, anyway.

Whoever said there’s no ‘I’ in team?

“There is on our team,” Van Hoose said.

Why? Van Hoose believes the Wildcats, who are 11-0 in dual meets, should focus on themselves.

“They’re their own team, and they’re on their own mission,” Van Hoose said. “I never cared a lot about team scores. If they take care of themselves, that will take care of the team scores.”

It worked at Wednesday’s Jackpot Duals for the Wildcats, who for now can claim to be the valley’s best.

The philosophy has worked in particular for Aidan Woomer, a Jackpot champion who is one of the state’s best at 160 pounds.

Also, Jacob Seely is 17-0 at 170 pounds, and Isaac Rodriguez is 12-1 at 145 pounds.

Rodriguez, a sophomore who last season qualified for state at 145 pounds, pinned his five opponents in last weekend’s Mountain View Invitational in Orem, Utah.

“We’re a pinning team, and you’ve got to put them away,” Van Hoose said. “(Isaac) has a lot of God-given talent, uncanny talent.”

As of Wednesday, Fruita had six wrestlers in the On the Mat rankings: Eli Konrad, No. 10 at 106 pounds; Jared Seely, No. 11 at 113; Clayton Muller, No. 16 at 132; Rodriguez, No. 8 at 145; Woomer, No. 5 at 160; and Seely, No. 2 at 170.

just a second

At Friday’s Montrose Invitational swimming and diving meet, Grand Junction has two relays on the brink of state-qualifying times.

Tigers coach Janet Ryan said the Tigers’ 200-yard individual medley (Taylor Kidd, Marina Silva, Ellen Atkinson and Taylor Kochevar) and 200 freestyle relay (Trinity Simmons, Kidd, Atkinson and Silva) need to shave off one second for state-qualifying times.

“We should be able to do it,” Ryan said. “The hard part is we had a long Christmas break.”


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