BOULDER — Once a year the at Boulder, the Panthers turn back the clock and play a varsity game in The Pit.
The school's old-time gym, just on size alone, ramps up the atmosphere 10-fold and gives the home side an advantage that is hard to find in another gym anywhere in the state.
Early on in Friday night's Front Range League game against Legacy, it seemed to work against them as they struggled to maintain composure.
"It got to our heads and we were forcing it and we were a little out of control with the crowd," junior guard Luke Wilson said. "We just needed to stay calm and in the second half we did a really good job of that."
The Panthers rode the roller-coaster of emotions in the second half, jumping out to a double digit lead, watching it shrink to two points and then eventually pulling it out 49-44 win over the Lightning.
"This was a playoff atmosphere and the students were great. I love this gym, I'm an alum so I love coming back here where I had a bunch of great memories," said Boulder coach Jack Clarke, whose team improved to 14-5 overall and 8-1 in the Front Range League. "Our kids look forward to this for 364 days of the year and that is why we struggle sometimes in that game."
Both teams struggled to find their range in the first half that went to the break with a defensive 20-17 score in favor of Boulder.
The lead ballooned to double figures midway through the third quarter — that started with two technical foul shots Boulder after Legacy was caught dunking in the halftime warm-ups — and the tandem of Landon Taliaferro and Wilson took over, scoring 17 of Boulder's 19 third quarter points.
For Taliaferro (18 points), it was expected, but it was Wilson (10 points) that rose to the occasion when his team needed him the most.
"Wilson is always our X-factor. That kid is tougher than nails," Clarke said. "He has no fear and that is what I love about him. He's been a money player in the second half in multiple games this year."
Wilson's driving lay-up that resulted in a three-point play with 2:27 put the Panthers up 44-36 and appeared to put a nail in Legacy's coffin.
But the Lightning, behind their go-to guard Tyler Converse, rallied to make it 44-42 just one minute later. Converse knocked down two 3-pointers and just like that it was a ball game again.
"He knows he's a shooter and he's going to work hard to get that shot," said Legacy coach Gunnar Johnson, who watched his senior go off for all 16 of his points in the second half. "I'm just proud of how hard the kids dug, because I don't think a lot of team come into this atmosphere and play as close as we did."
The Lightning (10-9, 3-5) would get no closer. Missed free-throws and a couple of forced jumpers didn't fall.
Boulder on the other hand hit their free-throws — notably Peter Chopra and Wilson — to ice the game in the final seconds.
Boulder 49, Legacy 44
At The Pit
LEGACY (10-9, 3-5)
Jacob Boeckenstedt 1 2-4 4, Tyler Converse 5 4-4 16, Jeffrey Salazar 2 0-0 4, Ross Smith 0 0-0 0, Dalton Royer 4 0-2 8, Logan Paulson 2 0-0 4, Garin Leopold 2 2-2 6, Geoffrey Davis 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 8-12 44.
BOULDER (14-5, 8-1)
Peter McNeal 0 0-0 0, Luke Wilson 4 1-1 10, Landon Taliaferro 6 4-4 18, Davis Kang 0 0-0 0, Savoy Carl 0 0-0 0, Sam Kirk 2 0-0 4, Peter Chopra 0 1-2 1, Bill DiScipio 2 0-2 5, Jake Baker 0 0-0 0, Jack Boyle 3 0-1 7, Ben Posthumus 1 2-2 4. Totals 18 8-12 49.
Score by quarters:Legacy 9 8 9 18 — 44
Boulder 12 8 19 10 — 49
3-point field goals — Legacy (2): Converse 2; Boulder (5): Taliaferro 2, Wilson, DiScipio, Boyle. Total fouls — Legacy 14; Boulder 14. Fouled out — Kirk. Technical foul — Legacy (dunking at halftime).