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Palmer press pounces on Doherty to lock up league title
Pikes Peak 5A No. 1 Palmer, with the chance to clinch the 5A Metro League title, wasted no time Friday night in deploying the Terrorfying Palmer press against heated rival Doherty.
The Terrors raced out to an 18-4 first-quarter lead and trounced Doherty 59-40 to win their third straight Metro League title, thanks in large part to its stifling, full-court press and dogged defense that led to 22 steals.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Palmer coach Dave Shackelford said. “They came out with the intensity we asked them to tonight. The fire. The focus. We just got after it early.”
Palmer (19-2, 8-0) used its press at the start of the game after it was the difference maker in the rivals’ previous meeting Feb. 2. The Terrors and Spartans (12-9, 6-2) were tied 30-30 entering the fourth quarter before Palmer used its press to earn a 55-38 in the first meeting.
Doherty coach Patrick McKiernan expected Palmer to use the press again, but the Spartans still couldn't overcome it. When they did, the Spartans failed to convert layups.
“It’s a tenacious press,” McKiernan said. “They are big and long and just move so quickly. It’s tough.”
Palmer sophomore Jenn Urbaniak symbolized the Terrors' tenacity with a series of aggressive drives to the hoop — sometimes against three defenders. She used power to grab a handful of violent offensive rebounds (seven) and scored nine of her 20 points in the first quarter.
At one point Shackelford yelled to his players, “Just give (the ball) to her.”
“Jenn is a ballplayer,” Shackelford said. “She plays older than she is. She does things on the court that people recognize and want to emulate.”
No matter where the ball was inside the Palmer gymnasium chances were Urbaniak was near it. The 5-foot, 10-inch winger would dive, wrestle and fight for the basketball with tremendous intensity knowing that a league title was at stake.
“We all just wanted to play really hard, because last game (against Doherty) we didn’t have too good of a start,” Urbaniak said. “So we just really wanted to have a good start to this game. I was just really pumped to play.”
Doherty received a team-high nine points from Angela Vigil but the Spartans could not overcome a 32-12 halftime deficit.
Urbaniak even showcased her impressive basketball IQ and finesse game when she made a beautiful behind-the-back pass to senior Jasmine Green underneath the basket to give Palmer a 41-14 lead in the third quarter.
Green benefited from Urbaniak’s strong low-post play and finished with 18 points. She also drilled four 3-pointers.
“Jen and I have a pretty good high-low game together,” Green said. "I kick it inside and she goes up or she kicks it back out and I hit the 3.”
Urbaniak has 42 points in two games against Doherty this year.
“She is amazing,” McKiernan said. “She has such a knack for the ball. She finishes around the basket and we know that. If she catches it in the paint it’s over. She will finish.”
Green said Palmer is happy to win its third straight league title, admitting it is sweet to win it this year after earning the title last year over Doherty via coin flip.
“It’s my third league title in my third year in a row, so that’s nice,” Green said. “Especially with that big of a win tonight.”