BOULDER -- Lena Jaycox was held to a season-low five points in Boulder's last basketball game, and she mustered just two in the first half on Tuesday night. So she was due for a scoring breakout.
And break out she did, right after intermission of BHS' 5A state playoff opener. The senior, who ranks No. 2 in Class 5A in scoring, tallied eight points in the first 59 seconds of the third quarter as the Panthers fended off Bear Creek for a 43-34 home victory.
"I knew we had to come out in the third quarter and get a run because we were only up by two" at halftime, Jaycox said. "I got two open shots, I hit 'em, then my teammate got a steal and passed it up to me for a layup. It all came at the right time, I guess."
Then Boulder held Bear Creek to just four points in the fourth quarter -- and only 34 for the game, the second-lowest total the Panthers have allowed this season.
The result is that BHS earned a spot in the second round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year, despite never being seeded higher than seventh in its quadrant of the bracket during that time.
The Panthers (14-10), seeded seventh this year, will play at Cherry Creek Friday night in the round of 32. The Bruins, 17-6 and the No. 2 seed from the Kaye Garms Region, had a first-round bye. This will be Boulder's first game against Cherry Creek since BHS left the Centennial League after the 2007-08 season.
After not playing their best against Bear Creek, the Panthers are just happy to have another game. They prevailed despite shooting just 29 percent from the field and continually allowing Bear Creek second shots -- especially in the first three quarters. Regarding the latter deficiency, it didn't help that BHS' top rebounder, Courtney Van Bussum, was sidelined with a concussion -- though she's expected back on Friday.
"You didn't see us at our best," first-year Boulder coach Ron Burgin said. "But here's what I tell the girls: It's playoff time, and nothing matters but winning. And it's absolutely true. The kids did what they had to do to win; not much more, but they did what they had to do to win.
"It's a hard game for these kids because there's seven seniors, and this is their last time to play here (at Boulder High)."
The game was tied at 18 late in the first half, but Jaycox's two 3-pointers and a layup in the first minute of the third period keyed a 12-0 run by the Panthers.
Bear Creek (10-14), despite hitting just 3 of 12 free throws Tuesday, crept back within four twice in the second half, the last time on a basket with 1:45 left in the game. But a steal and layup by Jaycox, followed by her hitting one of two free throws, put the game away. Jaycox finished with 15 points.
"She's explosive," Burgin said of the senior guard. "That's why she's one of the best players in the state. She's got that ability to click on when you need her to."
But that doesn't mean the Panthers weren't sweating out the outcome on Tuesday.
"It was definitely a little more tension than was comfortable," said junior Vivi Gregorich, who added nine points off the bench for Boulder. "But everyone stepped up defensively at the end there."
Though the Panthers will certainly be the underdogs Friday at Cherry Creek, they've pulled off upsets each of the last two years in the playoffs, upending No. 2 Grandview in the second round in 2011, and seventh-seeded Fruita-Monument on the road in their postseason opener last year.
"We're totally capable of an upset," Gregorich said.
Boulder 43, Bear Creek 34
At Boulder HS
BEAR CREEK (10-14)
Krusko 4 1-3 10, Green 2 0-0 4, Worthley 6 2-5 14, Vigil 1 0-0 2, Gary 2 0-0 4, Medina 0 0-2 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Gibbs 0 0-0 0, Haydon 0 0-2 0. Totals 15 3-12 34.
Burns 1 0-2 3, Gates 1 0-1 2, Dawson 1 0-0 2, Jaycox 5 3-4 15, Szarmach 1 2-2 4, Gregorich 3 2-2 9, Aschbacher 2 0-0 4, Alexander 1 2-2 4. Totals 15 9-13 43.
Score by quarters:
Bear Creek 6 12 12 4 -- 34
Boulder 9 11 16 7 -- 43
3-point field goals -- Bear Creek (1): Krusko; Boulder (4): Jaycox 2, Gregorich, Burns. Total fouls -- Bear Creek 15, Boulder 12. Fouled out -- Krusko. Technical fouls -- none.