Playoff payoff?

Palisade tops Cortez to extend postseason experience

Palisade’s Cruz Maestas drives past Montezuma-Cortez’s Naomi Pinnecoose to score two of her 20 points in the Bulldogs’ 66-14 victory in the Class 4A Western Slope League/Southwestern League district tourney.

In previous years, the Class 4A Western Slope League and Southwestern League used a selection committee to determine which seven of the leagues’ 11 4A teams would go to the state tournament.

This year, the 4A WSL/SWL is deciding those seven on the court with a district tournament.

A selection committee would have left the Palisade girls basketball team, seeded eighth in the district tourney, without a postseason appearance. Instead, Palisade has a chance to fight for a playoff spot, and the Bulldogs took the first step Tuesday, topping ninth-seeded Montezuma-Cortez 66-14 in Palisade.

“We lost some games we shouldn’t have,” Palisade coach Danielle Bagwell said. “For us this is just an opportunity to prove we can play with some of the best teams in the league. We split with some teams we shouldn’t have. To get the opportunity to play some of the teams that were seeded higher than us is great. We had a pretty tough nonconference schedule, so we’re ready.”

A second-quarter full-court press allowed Palisade to expand its lead from three points to 24. Montezuma-Cortez made only one of 16 3-point attempts for the game.

The Bulldogs next must face No. 1-seed Montrose, which had to wrap up SWL play last week because of the district tournament, but the Indians still could share the league crown if Fruita Monument beats Grand Junction on Friday.

The Bulldogs and Indians play at 6 p.m. Thursday at Brownson Arena.

“We need to have better back-side help and break down and cover better because Montrose can really shoot the three,”  Bagwell said. “Foot speed against a team with that ability is important.”

Cruz Maestas led Palisade with 20 points. Jenna Brown chipped in 13 points and Aspen Guray had 10 points. Every player on Palisade’s roster scored.

Maestas scored six points in less than 20 seconds during the third quarter when she notched two steals in a row after scoring a bucket.

“I think we can come back from some losses we should have won and compete with top teams,” Maestas said. “Tomorrow we’re going to have a focused practice and prepare better than we have before.”

If Palisade loses Thursday against Montrose, it will continue to play in the consolation bracket Friday and Saturday, possibly for fifth place or seventh place.


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