Up 21-19 at halftime and knowing the stakes in a crucial league battle, Palisade turned to its reliable senior guard and never looked back.
Sebastian Campbell scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half as the Bulldogs pulled away from Rifle for a 51-43 win Friday night.
Palisade has won four straight games and, in the process, snapped a three-game winning streak by the Bears.
"I thought we were being a bit one-dimensional offensively (in the first half)," said Palisade coach Clay Kame. "We were focused on getting Zane (Haas) the ball and Rifle knew that, so we turned it over quite a bit trying to get it into him. It's about getting other kids involved offensively. Defensively, we did some different things on some kids that were hurting us early, and I think that helped feed into our offense."
Haas was Palisade's leading scorer in the first half, scoring seven of his 13 points in the first 16 minutes. However, the Bulldogs' offense didn't find a rhythm until Campbell got involved.
Campbell made a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter, with the second tying the game at 19-19 with fewer than two minutes left in the half. Haas hit a pair of free throws with one second remaining in the half to give Palisade the lead for good.
After Kame's halftime adjustments, the lead widened for Palisade (12-4, 4-1 Class 4A Western Slope League).
After another couple of successful conversions at the charity stripe by Haas, Campbell took over the third quarter, hitting two shots behind the arc as well as a layup to propel the Bulldogs to a 35-24 lead with one quarter left.
"We wanted to play better as a team (in the second half)," Campbell said. "We wanted to come out confident and attack. That's pretty much all we wanted to do."
Palisade's defense was at its stingiest during the third quarter, holding Rifle (10-5, 2-3) scoreless for the first 4:39 of the quarter and only allowing five points.
Short baskets by Haas, Campbell and Kevin Loya, who finished with nine points, extended Palisade's advantage to 45-31 in the fourth quarter. Rifle went on an 8-2 run to trim the deficit to five points but couldn't come any closer.
For Rifle, Omar Chavez scored eight points in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 12. Treyson Lujan added 11.
Ultimately, those performances weren't enough for Rifle to earn a win on the road. Palisade hits the road today to take on its biggest challenge in league play: first-place Glenwood Springs.
The Bulldogs are feeling good going into the game, especially on the heels of their win over Rifle.
"Oh, we're excited," Campbell said. "We're coming off some big wins. As a team, we're fired up for (today)."
"Gonna go beat them at their home court. We're pumped."
Montrose 45, Central 41: The Warriors started strong on the road, outscoring the Indians 15-7 in the first quarter.
Montrose's Trey Reese answered back in the second, scoring all eight of his points, including two 3-pointers, as the Indians (9-8, 1-1 Southwestern League) took the lead for good.
Caleb Davis led the Warriors (4-11, 1-1) with 14 points and Jorge Bolanos added 11, including three 3-pointers.
Sean Alex paced Montrose with 14 points.
For the first quarter of Friday night's game, nobody for Rifle or Palisade seemed poised to assume a scoring role, as the teams ended the first quarter in a 0-0 deadlock.
After that, Alexis Marushack decided she'd shoulder the load for the Bulldogs, and as a result, they find themselves in third place in the Western Slope League.
The sophomore used her physical presence to score 16 points and lead Palisade to a 29-24 victory over Rifle (3-11, 3-2).
The Bears led by as much as 21-14 in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs (5-11, 3-2) responded with a 10-0 run, largely powered by Marushack and Alexandra MacAskill. Rifle's Jamie Caron hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:53 to go, but Marushack, as she did all night, had an answer, hauling in a pass from Magdalena Latek and laying it in for a 26-24 lead, and ultimately the victory, with a minute remaining.