BOULDER — To get an idea of how different a season this one appears to be for the Boulder girls basketball team, look no further than sophomore point guard Abbie Gillach.
In a close 38-35 loss to visiting Arvada West on Monday night, Gillach had a breakout game to the tune of a career-high 21 points. With young players like Gillach taking such big and exciting strides forward, it's no wonder the Panthers have already won more games through the first three weeks of the 2018-19 season than the program has won in any full season in five years.
Boulder has posted 5-18 records in each of the past two seasons and hasn't finished with a winning record since the Panthers finished 14-11 in 2012-13. Monday's loss to the Wildcats (5-5) snapped a steak of four straight wins for the Panthers (6-3) — their longest since that 2012-13 campaign — and also was their first loss at home this winter.
With words like "streak" and "career-high" returning to the Panthers' vocabulary, this year's club remains positive even in its losses because that's easier to do while expecting more wins to follow.
"It's really exciting because we're actually winning this year and we're playing a lot better," Gillach said. "Everything is really positive and we're working really hard because of that. Everything's kind of just fresh and new and we're more motivated this year. We just feel like it's a new season and anything can happen."
Gillach, who plays with great energy at 5-foot-4, hit a pair of step-back 3-pointers, went 3-for-5 at the free throw line and made eight total field goals in the game. Panthers senior Skye Reich, who also is scoring in double figures, scored all six of her points in the first quarter to jump-start her team early on and junior forward Emma Bagley scored seven points.
In a close game that was tied at halftime, the Panthers led by two to start the fourth quarter. Arvada West pulled ahead 38-30 with under two minutes left and the Panthers cut the lead to three points with 55.7 seconds remaining. They couldn't climb all the way back to pick up win number seven.
"We have a great new coach and we're having a great time so far," Gillach said. "I think we put in a lot of great effort tonight. My teammates play super hard and we always try our hardest. We just didn't do some of the little things super well tonight but I think we'll get it eventually."
Defensively, the Panthers are allowing an average of 31.7 points per game. Oddly, the visiting Wildcats scored 38 points without attempting a single free throw on Monday. The Panthers' lack of fouling actually hurt them down the stretch in a close game when they had so many fouls to give it made more sense to first-year Panthers head coach Emily Glen to go for a steal instead of foul intentionally.
A 24-year-old Thornton native, Glen averaged 13.5 points per game as a senior for Legacy when the Lightning won the Class 5A state championship in 2012. Once a star player for one of Boulder's rivals, she has the Panthers playing their best basketball in years.
"I definitely think we started strong but they started to figure some things out and they came back with a punch," Glen said. "I think for a while there we were going back and forth before they took off with it a bit. Unfortunately, we couldn't pull it out but I'm proud of my girls. They wanted it and they dug their heels in and tried to come back until the end.
"We only had four fouls at the end so we weren't even close to a one-and-one, really. So I told the girls to go for the steal and try to get the ball. I told them if we got the ball, we'd take it. If we got the foul, we'd take that too."
The Boulder girls will host Bear Creek on Wednesday and play Alameda on the road Thursday for their last game before the winter break.
Arvada West 38, Boulder 35
At Boulder H.S.
ARVADA WEST (5-5)
Williams 1 0-0 3, Riser 1 0-0 3, Pixler 3 0-0 6, Tafolla 1 0-0 2, Braning 0 0-0 0, Branch 0 0-0 0, Ross 3 0-0 6, Gallardo 1 0-0 3, Schwien 0 0-0 0, Vickles 2 0-0 4, Poland 2 0-0 4, Manson 3 0-0 7. Totals 17 0-0 38.
Vieth 0 0-0 0, Gillach 8 3-5 21, Madden 0 1-2 1, Chow 0 0-0 0, Bartsch 0 0-0 0, Bagley 1 5-8 7, Vanbussum 0 0-0 0, Krueger 0 0-0 0, Hunter 0 0-0 0, Reich 3 0-2 6. Totals 12 9-17 35.
Score by quarters:Arvada West 128810—38
3-point field goals — Arvada West (4): Williams, Riser, Gallardo, Manson; Boulder (2): Gillach 2. Total fouls — Arvada West 15, Boulder 11.