Palisade tops Aspen for 13th consecutive victory

Palisade tops Aspen for 13th consecutive victory

Palisade’s Caleb Hall, right, shoots around the defense of Aspen’s Austin Roark during the second half of the Bulldogs’ 54-27 victory Tuesday night over the Skiers in Palisade.

After picking up his dribble on a dead run and twirling the ball behind his back to fool a defender, Kane Gunther was hacked.

He laid the ball in, slid under the hoop on his back and smacked a maroon safety mat.

Aspen forward Jake Nugent fouled out.

Gunther stood up, looked at the hooting home crowd and was sieged by four teammates. Then he pointed a finger to the sky, paying respect to a friend and former teammate.

“That was for Gabe,” Gunther said.

Palisade won 54-27 over Aspen on Tuesday to extend its winning streak to 13 games.

With the play, Gunther honored Gabe Hellman, who died this past summer and would have been a senior.

The third quarter basket put Palisade ahead 49-27.

“It was just the moment,” said Gunther, who had 17 points.

In the second half, Class 4A Palisade (13-2) held 3A Aspen (9-3) to one made basket.

Again the Bulldogs took charges and sprawled for loose balls and jumped to deflect passes. Again they left a coach saluting their gung-ho aggressiveness.

“We took a good-old fashioned whipping,” Aspen coach Steve Ketchum said. “Our guys felt like this was a state championship-type playoff game.”

Not so for Palisade.

“For us it was a nonleague game and a great win,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said.

Palisade’s 6-foot-2 center, Jesus Aguirre, said prior to the game he would not back down from Aspen’s 6-7 center, Austin Roark. He did not.

After 6-foot guard Kyle Monger nearly won the opening tip against Roark, Aguirre, on the Bulldogs’ first offensive set, jumped into the chest of Roark for a layup.

Palisade 2, Aspen 0.

A minute later Aguirre went at the Skiers’ middle man again. Roark blocked Aguirre’s shot but committed a foul. Aguirre sunk both free throws.

Palisade led 4-2, but already it established grit and unwillingness to shy from the court’s tallest player.

“I just listen to what Coach says,” Aguirre said. “We try to work as hard as we possibly can.”

They practice taking charges in practice. Also, Aguirre said, occasionally they practice a diving drill in which a player takes a charge, then dives after a loose ball. The player then picks up the ball and tries to score on Phillips as he pounds them with a hand-held foam mat.

So guys such as Monger, who scored nine points, took a charge and dove around, have no problem shedding skin on the floor and scuffing the hardwood.

Sometimes, Palisade custodian Debbie Hysell peeks in on the action.

“They’re vicious out there,” she said.

What would it take to clean the blotches the Bulldogs’ defense leaves on the court?

“A wonderful Zamboni,” she said.


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