BOULDER -- For a 44-percent free-throw shooter, Courtney Van Bussum sure looked at home at the foul line on Tuesday night for the Boulder High girls basketball team.
The senior forward made seven of her eight free throws, including four clutch ones in the final 70 seconds, to help lead the Panthers to a 64-56 victory over Fort Collins in a key Front Range League battle.
On a night when both teams befuddled the other with defensive pressure, free throws proved valuable for the Panthers, who busted out of their recent scoring slump despite committing 26 turnovers.
The Panthers, a 60-percent squad from the line entering Tuesday, hit 19 of 24 free throws as a team. But none were bigger than Van Bussum's final four.
Clinging to a 55-53 lead, she coolly stepped to the line and hit a pair with 1:10 to play, then drained two more 21 seconds later to make it 59-53 and give the Panthers all the cushion they would need to hold on in a game that saw frequent lead changes.
"I've been missing them all season, and I made them tonight at crucial times," Van Bussum said.
The big free throws were only one highlight of the night for Van Bussum, who scored in double figures for the fourth time this season. She finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
"Courtney plays huge every night," BHS coach Ron Burgin said. "She doesn't always score a lot but she's a dominant rebounder. Big game for her. She played well."
Boulder improved to 10-6 overall and 5-4 in league play to pull even with Fort Collins, Fairview and Monarch for fourth place in the conference.
More than the league implications, though, BHS coach Ron Burgin termed the victory one of Boulder's biggest of the season for the way the Panthers rallied from deficits on multiple occasions.
Fort Collins (10-6, 5-4), led by 19 points from Payton Humpal and 14 from Kasey Dietrich, led 16-9 through the first quarter. After Boulder led by seven at halftime, the Lambkins took a 40-36 lead in the third quarter only to see Boulder regain the lead going into the fourth quarter on a Lena Jaycox 3-pointer.
Fort Collins shot just 32 percent (21 for 66) from the floor, which left coach Kyle Tregoning praising his own team's resilience but lamenting missed opportunities.
"It was pretty ugly," Tregoning said. "We missed a lot of layups."
Fort Collins' final lead, 53-52, came on a pair of free throws by Humpal with 2:57 to go. But Mariah Alexander drained one of two free throws to tie it for Boulder, and Jaycox followed with a backdoor layup to give the Panthers the lead for good.
"They didn't quit," said Burgin, whose squad has had trouble fighting back from deficits this season. "They didn't put their heads down. They kept fighting. That's big for us."
Jaycox, Class 5A's leading scorer, finished with 22 points, and Vivi Gregorich hit three clutch free throws of her own in the final minute on her way to 10 points for Boulder.
"We just played as a team tonight," Jaycox said. "When they got ahead, we didn't freak out."
Boulder 64, Fort Collins 56
At Boulder HS
FORT COLLINS (9-7, 5-4)
Thurgood 0 2-2 2, Dietrich 6 2-6 14, Tafoya 0 2-2 2, Lange 4 0-0 8, Thorp 0 0-0 0, Humpal 6 4-5 19, Casale 3 0-1 6, Evans 2 1-2 5. Totals 21 11-18 56.
BOULDER (9-6, 5-4)
Gregorich 3 3-4 10, Burns 1 0-0 3, Aschbacher 1 2-2 4, Gates 1 0-0 2, Van Bussum 3 7-8 13, Dawson 0 0-0 0, Alexander 3 1-2 7, Jaycox 7 6-8 22, Szarmach 1 0-0 3. Totals 20 19-24 64.
Score by quarters:
Fort Collins 16 8 18 14 -- 56
Boulder 9 22 12 21 -- 64
3-point field goals -- Fort Collins (3): Humpal 3; Boulder (5): Jaycox, Szarmach, Burns, Gregorich. Total fouls -- Fort Collins 20, Boulder 15. Fouled out -- Evans. Technicals -- None.