Youth on board
Youngest Brown is Palisade's top rebounder this season
During the 2012-13 basketball season, the main word used to describe the Palisade High School girls basketball team was “young.”
The Bulldogs didn’t quite grasp then first-year coach Danielle Bagwell’s offense, and there were the rough edges around the brimming potential.
This season, although still young, the Bulldogs (7-5, 4-3 Class 4A Western Slope League) have a crispness to the way they operate. Passes find their mark, and there’s a consistent rhythm on the floor.
Besides being balanced on offense with three players averaging nearly eight points per game, the surprise is the youthfulness of the Bulldogs’ leading rebounder. Freshman Christa Brown leads the way on the boards, averaging 6.1 rebounds per game and is third in scoring with 7.9 points per game.
One of the biggest reasons behind the strong performances is the constant battle of being the youngest sibling. Christa has had to play against her older sisters Ashlyn, Casey and Jenna — older sisters who haven’t taken it easy on her, turning her into a “fighter,” Bagwell said.
“Christa is probably the hardest worker in practice, and she hates to lose and hates to struggle,” Bagwell said. “She goes out there and battles. She’s had to battle her sisters for the last five-plus years.”
After an up-and-down start to the season in which the Montrose girls basketball team couldn’t find an identity, the Indians stunned previously undefeated Grand Junction to open their Southwestern League schedule.
Coach Eric Sanchez said Montrose (7-5, 2-0 SWL) was looking to re-establish its reputation as the hardest place to play in the SWL, and maybe on the Western Slope.
“We know that if you’re going to compete, going to compete to win this league, that you have win home games,” Sanchez said. “(Beating Grand Junction) is a step in the right direction for that. Hopefully we can keep it rolling because this is not an easy league to play in. We know that from past years.”
Not only did the Indians build momentum at home, they’ve been road warriors.
After beating Fruita Monument 47-37 on Tuesday, Montrose sits alone atop the SWL standings. The Indians, who were 5-5 in nonleague games, have handily beaten the second- and third-place teams in the conference.
But it hasn’t been top teams that have given Montrose trouble, it’s the average ones.
The answer to beating mediocre teams?
“We need to figure it all out,” Sanchez said. “If I had the answer to why we beat who we beat, I’d bottle it up and share it with everybody I knew. I think it’s just a mindset that we have to continue to develop and grow with. You know we only have one senior, so we’re a pretty young team. We’re pretty new to this, and we’re trying to figure each other out.
“You know this many games into the season you should have these things ironed out, but we’re going to keep plugging along. We have a great group of kids who are willing to sacrifice for the team, and I think that’s going to help us in league play.”
What Bobby DeSantis brings to the Palisade boys basketball team (8-4, 5-2 4A WSL) isn’t clear by glancing at a box score. He hasn’t played in every game this season, and he averages a mere 1.8 points per game.
But what he does bring, and what coach Brian Tafel appreciates, is quality minutes off the bench.
There’s a Palisade-like quality that DeSantis possesses. Something that reflects the hard-working, blue-collar reputation of all of the Bulldogs’ athletic programs. He puts his head down and gives 100 percent at all times.
“He’s been giving us quality minutes off the bench,” Tafel said. “I thought he had a great game against Rifle, and he really adds to this team.”
Top of the Pack
The 3A Western Slope girls basketball league isn’t just run-of-the-mill top-heavy with quality teams. It’s stacked.
Five teams are at least two games above .500, and it seems like every one of the league games has been competitive. It could make for a great race during the second-half of the league schedule.
In the meantime, one team has emerged as the league’s leader. After a weekend in which Cedaredge beat Coal Ridge and Moffat County, the Bruins (8-2, 6-1 WSL) are looking down at the rest of the league.
Cedaredge is on a five-game winning streak that includes a 54-51 victory over second-place Grand Valley and a 72-13 drubbing of Basalt.