Palisade will rely on youth this season

Palisade’s Jeremy Hayden, left, guards John Hyde in a one-on-one drill during practice Tuesday afternoon.

The Palisade High School boys basketball team learned a lot during an up-and-down 2008-09 season, Steve Phillips’ first as the coach.

The Bulldogs limped out of the gates to an 0-12 start, but turned it around to finish 6-6 down the stretch and qualify for the Class 4A playoffs.

“We are light years ahead of where we were last year,” Phillips said, “mostly because the guys know what we’re doing in practice and they’ve bought into the system.”

A group of underclassmen dominated last year’s roster, which had only two seniors, and freshmen Kane Gunther and Caleb Hall were thrown into the fire early.

“When you’re a freshman and you have seniors in your face, it’s hard to handle the ball,” Phillips said. “So those guys have matured physically, and worked hard in practice.”

Gunther and Hall started a majority of the season and each averaged about five points per game. Hall had a breakout game in the Bulldogs’ 72-64 playoff loss to Cheyenne Mountain, scoring 20 points.

Scoring was never the main priority for Gunther and Hall — that fell to this season’s other returning starter, 6-foot-5 senior Jeremy Hayden, who led the Bulldogs with 12.7 points per game last season.

“Jeremy’s a captain and I think the kids will follow his lead,” Phillips said. “He leads by example and will look to score.”

Stepping into a larger role this season are Nate Yanez, Matt Zarlingo and John Hydem. The trio will help replace graduated post players Rylie Josey and Jake Edmiston.

“We have a lot of good role players who can do what we need,” Phillips said. “But I’m not really concerned about getting offense as much as the defense. We have to get better defensively.”


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