Palisade’s Bagwell preaches toughness

Junior Cruz Maestas is one of two returning starters for Palisade, which is breaking in a new head coach, Danielle Bagwell, this season.


Key games

Dec. 13 — vs. Battle Mountain, 6 p.m.

Dec. 20 — vs. Rifle, 6 p.m.

Dec. 22 — vs, Durango, 1 p.m.

Jan. 22 — at Delta, 6 p.m.

Feb. 16 — vs. Delta, 1 p.m.

Danielle Bagwell is teaching her players a fighter’s mentality.

It began in the summer, when most of the Palisade High School girls basketball team trained with the football team four days a week, pulling sleds, lifting weights and running trails on Mount Garfield.

“That builds mental toughness more than anything,” said Bagwell, the Bulldogs’ first-year coach.

In fact, the program has three assistant Palisade football coaches: Landon McKee coaches the JV girls, Matt Popick is an assistant JV and varsity coach, and Pat Steele coaches the freshman girls.

Like the football coaches whose philosophy for the football team is to press forward, never backing off, Bagwell, 29, said it would be ideal for her team to press 32 minutes.

“We’ll kind of see how that goes,” said Bagwell, a 2002 Centauri High graduate. “That’s my goal.”

Junior Cruz Maestas returns as a starter, as does junior Moriah Rayment.

Bagwell coached freshmen Ashlyn Brown and Aspen Guray on a Palisade AAU team this summer, which no doubt will help the Bulldogs’ future.

“Everything just transfers over,” she said.

Palisade has nine players on its varsity.

Others are the lone senior, Billie Schott, juniors Jenna Brown, Amber Crigger and Shelby Rubalcaba, and sophomore Casey Brown.

“Strength wise, I think we have natural athletes,” Bagwell said. “As far as weaknesses, I don’t see it as a weakness — I think other people would see it as a weakness — is we have only one senior. But our two freshmen are stepping up huge for us.”

Toni Gunther stepped down from the head coaching position after last season to be able to watch her son, Kane, play for Colorado Mesa University.

Palisade graduated its top three scorers — Hannah Talbott (6.3 points per game), Flannery Davis (6.1) and Emily Crow (4.4).

Bagwell hopes this season’s team is one that utilizes intimidation.

“I don’t think that’s always been the philosophy here, so I don’t think other teams are anticipating that,” she said.

For Palisade, success could come down to how the team’s summer training transfers to pressing, wearing down and mentally sapping opponents.

“When they saw each other puking on those hills,” Bagwell said, “that bonded the team. They’re mentally stronger and it all started in the weight room and on the track.”


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