Taking responsibility: Kane Gunther has Bulldogs hoping for deep playoff run

Palisade High School’s Kane Gunther snags a rebound last season during a Bulldogs game against Eagle Valley. Gunther is primed to help the Bulldogs make a bigger impact this season in the Class 4A playoffs.



QUICKREAD

CLASS 4A WESTERN SLOPE LEAGUE AT A GLANCE

BATTLE MOUNTAIN

Coach: Tom Padilla (2nd year)

2009-10: 12-11 (7-7), lost to Montrose in first round

Key players: Cody Hervert, Sr., P

Outlook: The Huskies will build around Hervert, who led the team in rebounding last year.

DELTA

Coach: Von Mitchell (3rd year)

2009-10: 10-10 (9-5), lost to Evergreen in 4A first round

Key players: Eli Baier, Sr., P; Tim Ashurst, Sr., G.

Outlook: The Panthers have a half-dozen returning players, led by all-conference players Baier and Ashurst, to compete for another state playoff spot.

EAGLE VALLEY

Coach: Brent McConaghy (1st year)

2009-10: 4-19 (1-13)

Key players: Zeth Ramsey, Sr., P; Jesse Gish, Sr., G; Jeremy Sabo, Jr., G; Cooper Zenn, Jr., F.

Outlook: The Devils will try to utilize their quickness and athletic ability to push the tempo. It will help with the return of Jesse Gish from an injury.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS

Coach: Cory Hitchcock (1st year)

2009-10: 19-6 (14-0), lost to Thomas Jefferson in 4A second round

Key players: Kevin Flohr, Sr., G; Nick Ciani, Sr., P; Willy Pelland, Sr., P; Mike McGraw, Jr., G/F.

Outlook: Could get off to a slow start waiting for football players to join team, but with several key returning players, the Demons have the tools to win another league title, led by Flohr, last year’s WSL player of the year.

MOFFAT COUNTY

Coach: David Bradshaw (1st year)

2009-10: 6-17 (4-10)

Key players: Zach Raftopolous, Sr., PG; Angelo Raftopolous, Sr., P; Dylan Camilletti, Sr., G.

Outlook: Raftopolous boys will need other contributors to help ease transition under a new coach to compete for a playoff spot.

PALISADE

Coach: Steve Phillips (3rd year)

2009-10: 9-15 (5-9), lost to Greeley Central in first round

Key players: Kane Gunther Jr., G; Caleb Hall, Jr., G; Cody Bond, Sr., P; Gabe Hellman, Jr., P

Outlook: A core group of returning players will help the undersized Bulldogs compete for another playoff spot.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS

Coach: Luke DeWolfe (3rd year)

2009-10: 15-9 (11-3), lost to Longmont in 4A first round

Key players: Isiah Forsyth, Sr., G; Charles Wood, Sr., G, Randall Nelson, Sr., F, Eric Trosil, Jr., P; Justin Anderson, Sr., G

Outlook: The Sailors bring back four returning starters, including all-conference players Forsyth and Wood, to challenge for the league title.



Kane Gunther demands and expects a lot of himself.

The Palisade High School junior wasn’t pleased with the Bulldogs’ first-round playoff exit from the Class 4A boys basketball playoffs last season, so he spent the offseason doing everything he could to get better.

“I did a lot of offseason work,” Gunther said. “I wasn’t pleased with our end result. I thought we could’ve gone a lot further. I think we’ll be a lot better off. I think we have a hard-working group this year. I think we’ll do pretty well.”

Gunther played with a Salt Lake City club team in a Las Vegas tournament in the summer, lifted weights and worked out on a regular basis in preparation for this season.

“I went to the gym every day, gained weight, got strong and increased my vertical,” he said. “It helped me realize the talent that’s out there and it helped me improve my individual game.”

Gunther returns this season intent on leading Palisade past the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs for the first time since 2006.

The Bulldogs will rely on Gunther to pick up the scoring slack with the loss of Jeremy Hayden and Nate Yanez. Gunther averaged 11.7 points a game last season.

Hayden graduated and Yanez moved to Grand Junction. John Hyde and Matt Zarlingo also graduated.

“Kane is a good player,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “He’s really taken to heart to work on it. He’s worked on the leadership part of it and it shows. The guys voted him as one of the captains. That speaks well for him. He’s a great kid.”

Gunther, Caleb Hall and Cody Bond are the Bulldogs’ captains this season.

“I’ve taken more responsibility this year,” Gunther said. “Myself, Caleb, Cody and Gabe Hellman are all contributing as leaders, scoring defensively and rebounding.”

Phillips, though, said the Bulldogs need to rely on defense and ball control to compete in the Western Slope League, where Kevin Flohr returns for defending league champion Glenwood Springs. Steamboat Springs has four of its starters back, including two first-team all-WSL players, and Delta has two all-conference players back in Eli Baier and Tim Ashurst.

“We are not very big,” Phillips said. “We’re going to emphasize defense and taking care of the ball if we want to have success.”


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