HIGHLANDS RANCH — After four straight seasons with at least one playoff win, the Boulder boys basketball team has played two games in 2016-17 and has been dealt two losses.
The Panthers' most recent defeat was a 72-46 loss on the road at ThunderRidge, which is ranked fourth in Class 5A by the CHSAANow.com preseason poll, on Friday night. When they put together an early non-conference schedule that included three top-10 teams, the Panthers knew they may not reach Front Range League play with an outstanding record.
For a team that is coming off back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances and still considers itself one of the top-tier squads in the state, sharpening their skills so they can prove it is the Panthers' primary focus. Hence the brutal non-conference schedule they have signed themselves up for.
"We schedule these games for a reason," Panthers coach Jack Clarke said after Friday's loss. "To be the best, you have to play the best. There are plenty of other teams we could have gone out and scheduled to pad our record. We're trying to build for January, February and March. This was a step in the right direction."
The Panthers (0-2) played the Grizzlies (1-0) to a 10-10 tie through the first quarter. But their shooting went cold in the second, during which senior forward Peter Chopra's 3-pointer was the Panthers' only basket and the Grizzlies outscored them 18-3 to pull away with a 15-point halftime lead.
The Grizzlies went on to outscore the Panthers 44-33 in the second half. The Panthers' defense was able to create stretches in the game during which the Grizzlies couldn't build their lead. But mistakes at the offensive end led to easy transition baskets for the Grizzlies and quick lead-building runs.
"Against really good teams like that, those tipped passes and turnovers turn into them going the other way with three on two or four on two," Clarke said. "With us working really hard to get any sort of shot at the offensive end l, those kinds of things are really tough to overcome. We just couldn't dig ourselves out of that hole."
ThunderRidge's Corey Seng scored 18 points in the first half but the Panthers were able to limit him to 10 in the second. Senior guard Luke Wilson led the Panthers with 22 points and Chopra scored 13.
The Panthers will play their first home game of the season when they host Westminster (0-1) on Saturday afternoon.
"We've got to get some different guys to develop some confidence at the offensive end and I think that will come tomorrow," Clarke said.
ThunderRidge 72, Boulder 46
At ThunderRidge H.S.
Luke Wilson 8 3-3 22, Elijah Edwards 2 2-2 7, Ben Bavis 0 0-2 0, Ted Dulchinos 0 1-2 1, Peter Chopra 6 0-0 13, Max Riley 1 1-1 3, Henry Ryan 0 0-0 0, Tyler Blessing 0 0-0 0, Elliot McKee 0 0-0 0, Miller Davison 0 0-1 0, Trevor Newell 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 7-10 46.
Bubba Gault 1 0-0 3, Doug Maier 0 0-0 0, Brody Mueller 0 0-2 0, Tim McIntyre 0 0-0 0, Tryson Chruckshank 2 3-3 8, Kaison 5 4-4 14, Casey Fowler 2 2-4 7, Corey Seng 12 0-1 28, Kevin Sax 0 0-0 0, Ryan Holt 3 2-2 8, Bailey Verk 2 0-0 4. Totals 27 11-16 72.
Score by quarters:Boulder 10 3 11 22 — 46
ThunderRidge 10 18 14 30 — 72
3-point field goals — Boulder (5): Wilson 3, Edwards, Chopra; ThunderRidge (7): Seng 4, Cruckshank,, Fowler, Gault. Total fouls — Boulder 13, ThunderRidge 17.