Palisade entered Friday night's home game against Western Slope League power Steamboat Springs eager to earn its fifth straight victory against its toughest opponent so far this season.
The Sailors' Mac Riniker was just as eager to torch the Bulldogs in their own house.
The senior scored 19 points, with four coming on dunks, as Steamboat Springs beat Palisade 52-38.
Palisade (8-4, 1-1) got a pair of double-digit scoring performances from Watts Erb, who finished with a team-high 12 points, and Zane Haas, who added 11, but Steamboat Springs (10-2, 1-0) had an answer for every Bulldog rally attempt.
According to Palisade coach Clay Kame, physicality in the paint ultimately made the difference.
"We've still got to be able to rebound," Kame said. "Defensively, we did alright. We had a decent gameplan for what a really good team can do. But when they miss shots and jump over our backs to grab the ball and get extra opportunities, that makes it really difficult. We've got to be able to have a one-shot mentality, but we couldn't finish possessions."
The teams traded baskets to open the game, but once Steamboat Springs took a 4-2 lead on a basket by Riniker, the Sailors wouldn't relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
Riniker and Dawson Lindquist combined for 10 first-quarter points as the Sailors raced out to an 16-4 lead at the end of the quarter, placing Palisade in unfamiliar territory: a daunting early hole.
"You can go from one really good first quarter one night to one really tough quarter the next," Kame said. "We experienced a deficit we haven't seen this year, but I thought our kids chipped away at it. I'm proud of their effort for three of the quarters, but we've got to play all 32 minutes."
At several points in the game, Palisade trimmed the deficit to only a few baskets. The first run came in the second quarter. Down 18-4, Kevin Loya, who finished with six points, made a shot just inside the left wing to cut the hole to 12 and snap a 7:30 scoreless drought for the Bulldogs. Erb followed that basket with a 3-pointer and a layup on an assist by Christian Riddle to make it 18-11. However, Steamboat Springs ended the half on a 6-2 run, punctuated by a buzzer-beating floater by Riniker.
Another run for Palisade came early in the third quarter. The Bulldogs, trailing 26-15, cut the deficit to 31-27, thanks partly to Erb, who scored seven points during the run.
Steamboat Springs again had a response. Aden Knaus knocked down a shot from beyond the arc, his second of the quarter, which was followed by back-to-back 3s in the late third and early fourth quarters by Trace Walker to extend the lead to 40-27.
Palisade would never get any closer than 10.
"Our message to the players after the game was that you have to come to play," Kame said. "Don't ever be intimidated by size or somebody's record or anything like that. Stick to what we do well and believe in the system and things will work out."
Palisade 38, Steamboat Springs 30: The Bulldogs (4-8, 2-0 WSL) earned their second straight win with another dominant defensive showing.
Jessie Mello led Palisade with 14 points and Kendyl MacAskill and Magdalena Latek each added six.
The Bulldogs had to withstand a fourth-quarter rally by the Sailors to come away with the win. Down 31-12, Steamboat Springs (2-10, 0-1) went on a 12-0 run to cut the deficit in half, 31-24. However, that was as close as it could come, as Palisade made 7 of 13 from the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the game. Six of the made attempts were by Latek and Mello.