BRIGHTON — Boulder girls basketball coach Sara Klippert's voice was hoarse as it's ever been after Thursday night's non-league game against Brighton, but that wasn't enough to stop her from singing some praises for her team's grind-it-out effort.
The Panthers have been working hard since November with a goal to reach the postseason, and it's been rewarded with more wins already than all of last year. That accomplishment was reached with a 52-47 road victory against the Bulldogs, a team that beat the Panthers 52-16 in last year's meeting.
Boulder improved to 4-6 on the year but more importantly won their third game in the past four, a stretch in which it has averaged 49 points a contest.
"I've never had a team that's worked as hard, and their effort isn't something that has to be coached," said Klippert, whose team will begin Front Range League play on Tuesday against Loveland. "They're doing a lot more together, and different people stepped up. We had a great start, but we have to avoid those bumps and roller coaster moments.
"We're seeing some glimmers of awesome-ness."
No one individual is carrying the load for the Panthers this year, and that's a huge seed that's been sown for Klippert's squad. Seniors Grace Garza and Ally Murphy Pauletto lead the team in scoring at about nine points a game, but even on a quarter-by-quarter basis someone different stepped up for Boulder on Thursday.
Marlee Burridge had the hot start scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone — she finished with a team-most 19 points. Along with controlling themselves against the press and getting rebounds, Boulder jumped out to a 13-4 lead early.
The second and third quarters couldn't have been more different, but when all was said and done the Panthers carried a 38-31 lead to the fourth frame.
With little experience in close games so far this year — one way or the other — Boulder's confidence may have grown in managing to keep a lead in a tight situation.
Up 49-39 with about 2 minutes to go, Brighton's press forced Boulder back into some old habits. The Bulldogs made it 49-42 on a Tavia Weis 3-pointer, and the Panthers had turnovers and missed free throws that kept Brighton right there.
With 52.3 seconds left, Kaylah Lewis hit a shot that was called a 3-pointer despite clearly being over the line, making the score 50-47.
But Garza (13 points) and Pauletto (16 points) hit a free throw apiece in the final seconds to hold claim to victory.
"It's really important for us to be able to pull out a tight win, just to show we can keep our energy up and keep working," said Burridge, who nailed five 3-pointers. "There were frustrating moments for us but we stayed positive."
Sydney Arthur had eight rebounds and Boulder grabbed 32 as a team, a big improvement on their 18-rebound average.
Boulder 52, Brighton 47
At Brighton HS
Meghan O'Herron 0 0-0 0, Grace Chow 0 0-0 0, Ally Murphy Pauletto 4 7-15 16, Kiara Goodman 0 0-1 0, Claire Boyle 0 0-1 0, Grace Garza 6 1-2 13, Bijou MacDonald 0 0-0 0, Sydney Arthur 1 2-2 4, Marlee Burridge 6 2-4 19. Totals 17 12-25 52.
Jessica Baker 6 0-0 12, Maddie Janzen 0 0-0 0, Janae Reyes 2 3-5 7, Kaylah Lewis 3 3-6 10, Shayna Slorf 0 0-2 0, Esther Grein 0 0-0 0, Alejandra Dominguez 3 5-6 11, Tavia Weis 1 0-0 3, Sidney Potestio 1 2-4 4. Totals 16 13-23 47.
Score by quarters:Boulder 13 8 17 14 — 52
Brighton 5 8 18 16 — 47
3-point field goals — Boulder (6): Burridge 5, Pauletto; Brighton (2): Lewis, Weis. Fouled out — Dominguez.