Palisade going back to basics for playoffs

Palisade’s hope, as the big-school basketball state tournaments begin this week, is that through a recent rash of losses, it can resurrect The Streak.

One more of those, and a run through the Class 4A boys state tournament is possible, beginning with the No. 7-seeded Bulldogs (17-6) home first-rounder at 7 p.m. today against No. 10 Palmer Ridge (8-15.)

No. 4 Delta (17-6), co-champion in the 4A Western Slope League with Eagle Valley, received a first-round bye.

CHSAA doled another bye out to No. 3 Montrose (19-4), which will play Friday against No. 6 Elizabeth (14-8) or No. 11 Skyline (9-14).

In the Class 5A state tournament, meanwhile, No. 8 Grand Junction (14-8) has a first-round home game at 7 p.m. today against No. 9 Loveland (14-9). The winner plays at No. 1 Arapahoe (21-2) on Friday in the second round.

No. 3 Fruita Monument (20-3) also received a bye and will host the Lincoln-Pomona winner on Friday.

Palisade, which went 3-4 after a 14-game winning streak and lost a lead atop the league standings, will take on Palmer Ridge from the Colorado Springs 4A Metro Conference.

Toward the season’s end, Palmer Ridge lost by two to No. 2 Coronado (17-6).

“They’ve got to think we’re pretty good just because we have 17 wins,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “But we’re not going to overlook Palmer Ridge. They came from a great conference and they’re glad to be in the playoffs with a chance to upset somebody like us.”

Led by Kane Gunther’s 17.2 points per game, the Bulldogs are looking to go back to what got them to the state playoffs — diving and arm-flailing defense.

“We’ve got to play great ‘D’,” Phillips said. “It’s nice we have an opportunity to play somebody we don’t know anything about and who doesn’t know anything about us.”

Grand Junction has won seven of its last nine, including a 71-65 win over Fruita Monument on Feb. 2.

Led by Casey Burns 11.5 points per game and Broderick Robinson’s 9.9 points, the Tigers will take on Loveland, which has lost three straight.

Grand Junction’s No. 8 seed was expected, said Tigers coach Dutch Johnson.

“Every single year we’re right around 15 wins and get the eight seed, so it was expected,” Johnson said. “Don’t think anybody was fighting for us to get any higher of a seed over there.”

Last season, Grand Junction defeated Chatfield in the first round and lost to No. 1 Arapahoe in the second.

Loveland is led by 6-foot-6 Conor Lang, who is averaging 14.8 point and has connected on 48 of 138 3-pointers.

“We’ll just say, ‘Casey, go guard him,’” Johnson said.

Fruita, meanwhile, will not play until Friday against Tuesday’s winner between No. 6 Lincoln (13-10) and No. 11 Pomona (9-14).

The Wildcats have won four straight, their last being a 55-52 win over Montrose to clinch the Southwestern League title.

Drew Bridges had 37 in the game.

“He just wouldn’t let us lose against Montrose,” Fruita coach Dave Fox said.

Fruita, if it advances to the Sweet 16 — the round it lost in the playoffs last season to Highlands Ranch — would face No. 2 Columbine (19-4).

But it will do so without point guard Zach Thorpe, who recently underwent reconstructive knee surgery.

“It’s been tough ever since Zach went down,” Thorpe said. “We haven’t been quite the same. What he brought was a little bit of toughness. And team camaraderie. We’ll see what happens.”


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