Battle Mountain bags Palisade in playoff hunt

Glenwood on Saturday

Battle Mountain's Alden Pennington drives to the hoop against Palisade Tuesday in Edwards. Pennington hit a half-court shot at the buzzer before half on her way to a career-high 21 points during the Huskies’ 56-42 victory over Palisade. (Chris Dillmann

EDWARDS — Battle Mountain girls basketball finally bagged the big game for which it was hunting.

Yes, the Huskies have won their fair share of games this season, but had come up short against the best of the 4A Slope … until Tuesday.

Alden Pennington and Gabby Caballero made it rain from beyond the arc and the Huskies’ defense stood tall as Battle Mountain picked off Palisade, 56-42, Tuesday afternoon.

“It was important after a tough loss against Rifle,” Huskies coach Jim Schuppler said his team’s game on Saturday. “When our starters stay out of foul trouble, we’re a handful. When you’re facing a team with three 6-footers, it’s always going to be tough.”

But Battle Mountain shot over Palisade’s height and, perhaps most importantly, scrapped with Bulldogs in the paint to preserve an early lead.

From way downtown … Bang

One kind of got the feeling it was going to be a special night when Caballero hit from Vail Christian on her first 3-point attempt of the night with 6:14 left in the first quarter.

Battle Mountain's Gabby Caballero goes for a shot against Palisade Tuesday in Edwards. Caballero finished with 21 points as the Huskies beat the Bulldogs, 56-42. (Chris Dillmann

“Once you hit the first one, you start to feel comfortable,” Pennington said.

That was apropos for Pennington because she promptly hit two 3s in a 32-second span and was probably feeling quite nice after that.

As impressive as all the 3-point bombs were — and they were — Battle Mountain won this in the paint. Yes, the 3-pointers are an efficient way of scoring, but Palisade has a way of shoving the ball down another team’s throat with their size.

The Huskies held their ground on Tuesday, making big stops and corralling lots of rebounds. Brava to Mia Bettis, Gianna Carroll and Augustine Hancock.

“That was our whole pregame talk,” Schuppler said. ” Toughness and battling for the ball.”

Every time Palisade got close and the Bulldogs got to within 25-24 with 2:19 left in the half, the Huskies had a response. In a scary moment, Caballero was involved in a collision late in the second quarter and seemed to have sustained a right-shoulder injury.

Without Caballero, all Pennington did was hit a Hail Mary at the buzzer to put the lead back at 28-24. And just for good measure, Pennington hit another 3 with three seconds left in the third quarter.

By that time, Caballero returned and was causing all sorts of problems for the Bulldogs. Battle Mountain worked the lead back to 10-plus points in the fourth quarter and Carroll popped a 3 that served as the dagger.

Pennington and Caballero both had 21 points. That’s a career high for Pennington. That’s a career high for Caballero … for this week so far. (We kid because Caballero had 41 against Summit last week.)

Playoff picture

COVID-19 has changed the bracket from 48 to 32 teams, and the rating-percentage-index isn’t the only determinant for playoff qualification — and that’s good as we’ll see.

Battle Mountain's Augustine Hancock passes the ball Tuesday in Edwards. Hancock and the Huskies take on Glenwood Springs in the regular-season finale on Saturday. (Chris Dillmann

This year, CHSAA willl be using RPI, the Poll, rankings and Packard ratings.

Battle Mountain was sitting at No. 32 in the RPI before beating Palisade. A win over the 8-3 Bulldogs should be helpful, but the Huskies would rather be in the mid-20s by the end of the week.

The poll is voted on by coaches statewide, but only goes to 15 teams. Battle Mountain is not ranked. The Huskies are No. 32 in the ranking. Just like RPI, that standing was before the Palisade win and one really doesn’t want to be sitting on No. 32 as the week progresses. Packard has Battle Mountain No. 36.

Schuppler, naturally, has been monitoring all the polls and feels that if the Huskies win on Saturday against Glenwood, they’ll get their ticket.

“I’m not looking,” Caballero said. “I have enough faith in this team.”