HENDERSON -- The Boulder girls basketball team has shown it is a competitive group early on this season. But the most inhibiting obstacle the Panthers currently face is beginning to believe it themselves.
After beating Brighton and Golden by more than 27 points each earlier in the week, the Panthers lost to Mountain Vista 64-61 in the championship match of the Prairie View Invitational on Friday.
Panthers junior shooting guard Jacque Szarmach had 16 points and seven rebounds. After the game, she said the Panthers lost because their confidence was shaken early and they couldn't get it back.
"We're just not that confident yet," Szarmach said. "We believe in each other, we just don't believe in ourselves. That's where the issue is coming from. We needed to be pushed and we're gonna come out after winter break ready for league."
Friday's narrow miss was an eye-opener for the young Panthers, whose mental fortitude was repeatedly tested throughout the close affair.
The Panthers jumped out to a 14-7 lead but the Golden Eagles quickly cut the deficit to 14-13 to start the fourth quarter. It was at that point Panthers head coach Ron Burgin said the Panthers lost their nerve. The Golden Eagles won the second quarter 20-15.
They hung around and the Panthers briefly took a 61-60 lead with 1:12 left in the game. The Golden Eagles went up again at 64-61.
The Panther drew up a play out of a time out with 9.9 seconds left. But Jaycox's long, potentially game-tying 3-pointer was off the mark.
"This was not us tonight. This is not how we play and this is not how we've been playing," Panthers head coach Ron Burgin said. "We allowed Mountain Vista to stay in the game, which gave them confidence. Then they started playing really well and we started losing ours."
Averaging 22.6 points per game, Lena Jaycox was third in the state in scoring entering Friday's game. She put in 19 against the Golden Eagles, 11 in the fourth quarter.
Despite having to overcome five coaching changes in four years and winning just nine games last season, the Panthers are off to a hot start at 5-2 and averaging 63.7 points per game. Friday's loss snapped a four-game win streak.
Senior caption Courtney Van Bussum nine rebounds and five assists.
"Last year, especially, was a mental struggle," Van Bussum said. "To believe in ourselves is such a big part of it. That's why Coach is really trying to drill into our minds that we really can do this."
With the Eagles rotating in a pair of post players taller than 6-foot-2, the Panthers felt small inside. Szarmach said they allowed too many offensive rebounds and second-chance baskets to the Golden Eagles, in particular to 6-foot-3 forward Kylie Klein, who finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
After the holiday break, the Panthers will begin 5A Front Range League play on the road at Monarch (3-3) on Jan. 8.
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Mountain Vista 64, Boulder 61
At Prairie View HS
Gregorich 1 0-0 2, Aschbacher 2 0-0 4, Gates 2 1-4 6, Van Bussum 0 3-4 3, Dawson 2 2-2 6, Alexander 2 1-2 5, Jaycox 6 5-8 19, Szarmach 6 4-4 16. Totals 21 16-24 61.
MOUNTAIN VISTA (9-1)
Schwatzkopf 3 2-4 10, Klein 4 3-6 11, Whetstone 4 3-4 12, Lynn 1 0-0 3, Keller 4 5-6 11, Lopez 0 0-0 0, Pearson 5 2-2 15, Wilmes 0 0-0 0, Hughes 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 15-22 64.
Score by quarters:
Boulder 14 15 16 16 -- 61
Mountain Vista 13 20 13 17 -- 64
3-point field goals -- Boulder (3): Jaycox 2, Gates; Mountain Vista (7): Pearson 3, Schwatzkopf 2, Whetstone, Lynn. Total fouls -- Boulder 19, Mountain Vista 21. Fouled out -- Dawson. Technical fouls -- None.