BOULDER — The Boulder boys basketball team has shown flashes of the grit and talent that allowed the Panthers to win 18 games and reach the Class 5A Sweet 16 last season.
But unlike last year, several of the current Panthers' best efforts this season have been undone by rapidly-onsetting stretches of poor play that have been the difference at many games. After ending the 2016 calendar year with back-to-back victories, the Panthers returned from the holiday break on Wednesday and lost 59-51 to Mountain Vista.
Despite several positives to open the new year, the Panthers dropped to 3-5 after yet another loss that was characterized by one particularly poor stretch of just a few minutes.
"We're close, we are really close as a team, I think," Panthers head coach Jack Clarke said. "For us, it's really just about stringing together 32 minutes. We're at 3-5 and in four of those losses, we've lost the game in a two minute span. We're even with these teams for 30 minutes but we have those little stretches and that's what's holding us back right now."
On Wednesday, the tough stretch that has doomed the Panthers through their trying non-conference schedule hit early. Falling behind 13-2 to open the contest at home, the Panthers were outscored 17-8 in the first quarter. After a better second quarter, however, they trailed by just five points at halftime.
While holding the visiting Golden Eagles (6-4) well below the 67.6 points they averaged through their first nine games, the Panthers (3-5) cut the deficit to two points late in the third quarter. But Golden Eagles offensive rebounds on three straight possessions pushed the lead quickly back to eight points and the Panthers, who committed 18 turnovers, could not recover a third time.
"We've got to do a better job of starting fast and finishing strong," Clarke said. "Turnovers and offensive rebounds are killing us. Those have been our biggest bugaboos. In a low-scoring game like this, those eight points are not easy to get back. We become a lot more potent when guys make plays around Luke Wilson (14 points) and Peter Chopra (11 points), and that's what was working in the second quarter. We just need to play with that same confidence a little bit more consistently."
Panthers senior Henry Ryan scored nine of his 13 points in the first half. He and teammate Alec Sinner each hit three 3-pointers in the game.
The Panthers will kick off Front Range League play on the road at Fort Collins (7-3) on Friday. The Panthers beat the Lambkins 59-47 in the conference opener last season, a win that went a long way towards their eventual Front Range League title.
Mountain Vista 59, Boulder 51
At Boulder H.S.
MOUNTAIN VISTA (6-4)
Baker 1 1-3 3, May 3 1-3 7, Pomeroy 0 0-0 0, Sweeney 2 0-0 4, Belknapp 10 2-8 23, Hughes 4 2-2 12, Kimmell 2 3-4 8, Erickson 1 0-0 2, Hafner 0 0-0 0, Staib 0 0-0 0, Wohlleber 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 9-20 59.
Sinner 3 0-0 9, Wilson 5 3-3 14, Edwards 1 0-0 2, Davis 0 0-0 0, Kang 1 0-0 2, Dulchinos 0 0-0 0, Chopra 5 1-2 11, Ryan 4 2-2 13, Blessing 0 0-0 0, Newell 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 6-7 51.
Score by quarters:Mountain Vista 17 11 12 19 — 59
Boulder 8 15 13 15 — 51
3-point field goals — Mountain Vista (4): Hughes 2, Kimmell, Belknapp; Boulder (7): Ryan 3, Sinner 3, Wilson. Total fouls — Mountain Vista 17.