BOULDER -- When the Boulder boys basketball team needed a spark Wednesday night, Alejandro Rodriguez gladly provided it. And after absorbing a finger in his eye that forced Rodriguez to defer to his teammates in the second half, a number of Panthers players were more than ready to pick up the slack.
It was a combination that proved far too overwhelming for George Washington. Playing their final game of the season on their home floor, the Panthers rode Rodriguez's hot hand early before burying the Patriots down the stretch to record a 56-45 win in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.
Boulder, seeded eighth in the Glenn Wilson Region, advanced to face top-seeded Regis Jesuit on Saturday at 6 p.m.
"We managed the different phases of the game really well, which is something we struggled with at points this year," said Boulder coach Eric Eisenhard, who was an assistant for Regis coach Ken Shaw for three years before taking the Boulder job last season. "We managed to make shots early on. We managed their little run in the third quarter. And we managed their press in the fourth quarter and scored some easy baskets against that. That's the reason we were able to maintain a lead."
Ninth-seeded GW took a one-point lead into the second quarter when Rodriguez took over.
The senior exchange student from Mexico put on a one-man show during the frame, mixing an array of drives with pull-up jumpers while making five consecutive shots. Rodriguez scored 12 of his 16 points in the quarter, leading Boulder to a 34-24 lead at the break.
However, Rodriguez was sent to the sideline with 37.1 seconds in the half after taking a finger in his eye. Although he returned after the break, Rodriguez took only two shots and scored only one point the rest of the way. The heady guard managed to contribute in other ways, though, ultimately finishing with eight steals and five assists.
"Coach told us this was our last home game and to just enjoy it. That's what I did," Rodriguez said. "I tried to enjoy the moment with everybody. I tried to play with energy more than anything and we tried to play as a team, trusting each other. I think that was the key in the first half. The second half, we tried to play smart and patient."
GW made one final run, trimming the Panthers' lead to seven points with 5 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the third. Eisenhard called a timeout to allow his Panthers to regroup, and his club responded with a 12-4 run to take control for good.
Boulder sophomore guard Garrett Turner scored 16 points to share top scoring honors with Rodriguez, while senior Jonah Charnick scored six of his 13 points during the third quarter. Junior defensive specialist Cooper Bohm tallied only six points, but he scored all of them during the fourth quarter to help the Panthers (15-9) keep GW at bay.
Boulder posted its victory under the watchful eyes of the Regis Jesuit coaches, who were on hand to get a sneak preview of their second-round opponent on Saturday.
"I thought (Boulder) looked good," Shaw said of his former pupil's team. "Eric has done a great job with the program here and his kids play hard. They play smart. They certainly shot the 3-ball well in the first half. The second half, GW kind of took that away, but they did some other things and certainly showed some patience and deserved to win."
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Boulder 56, George Washington 45
At Boulder HS
GEORGE WASHINGTON (13-11)
Davis 3 0-0 7, Gordon 2 1-1 5, Hewlett 0 0-0 0, Johnson 1 1-2 3, Taylor 5 4-4 16, Hudgens 4 1-2 11, Tagir 1 1-2 3. Totals 16 8-11 45.
Turner 5 3-4 16, Charnick 5 1-4 13, Rodriguez 6 2-3 16, Bohm 3 0-0 6, Van Lieshout 0 2-4 2, Riverol 0 0-0 0, Szarmach 1 0-0 3, Lampert 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 8-15 56.
Score by quarters:
George Washington 14 10 6 15 -- 45
Boulder 13 21 8 14 -- 56
3-point field goals -- George Washington (5): Taylor 2, Hudgens 2, Davis; Boulder (8): Turner 3, Charnick 2, Rodriguez 2, Szarmach. Total fouls -- George Washington 17, Boulder 11. Fouled out -- Gordon.