David R. Jennings/Broomfield Enterprise
Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera
BOULDER — As Lena Jaycox met first-year Boulder girls basketball coach Ron Burgin for the first time, the Panthers’ senior couldn’t help the shiver of excitement that rattled through her shooting arm.
Burgin kept talking about the up-tempo style he wanted to implement into the Boulder program. For Jaycox, a superb athlete and a natural scorer with a proven track record, she couldn’t have asked for a better fit for the final season of a prep career that has endured a mid-career transfer and then two coaches in two seasons at Boulder.
In fact, the pairing of Burgin’s system with Jaycox’s skill set has meshed so perfectly that she began the week leading all of Class 5A in scoring. And when the Panthers renew their cross-town rivalry with Fairview on Saturday, the always-intriguing showdown will feature a new twist with two of the classification’s top scorers on the floor in Jaycox and the Knights’ Sarah Kaufman.
“When I heard what his style was I was like, ‘Oh my God,'” Jaycox said. “I’ve never had a coach that wants to run the style that I’m used to running in club. With the fast pace, he’s always like, ‘If you have a shot, take it. I’m never going to tell you not to shoot.’ That’s always the best thing for a scorer.
“A lot of it has been the style of play, but this summer I did a lot of weight training and got stronger. I did more self-work this summer that helped me improve my game to where it is now.”
Boulder and Fairview square off at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Coors Events Center at the University of Colorado, with the Panthers and Knights boys teams following at 7:30.
Jaycox began the week averaging 21.8 points, the top mark in Class 5A and the fourth-best mark in the state overall.
While the senior has always been a bona fide finisher — she averaged 13 points a game over her first two seasons at Mountain Vista and posted a 14.2 points a game average with Boulder last year — Jaycox has taken her scoring prowess to another level this season. She has recorded four 20-point games, including a 33-point outburst against Golden and a 32-point effort against Valor Christian, while making certain to not lose sight of the team aspect that Burgin expects will keep the Panthers in the hunt for the Front Range League title.
“She’s one of the reasons I thought we’d be able to play that style,” Burgin said. “We don’t have to worry about presses very much, because she handles them. We can often turn someone else’s pressure into a fast break. But the one thing that has been really fun to watch with her is that she’s a total gamer. Several times now when we desperately needed a bucket, she hits it.
“The big thing people don’t realize, because she’s such a scorer, is she has a great ability to create scoring for others. We often call on her to do that.”
For her part, Kaufman, a junior, has emerged as the potential heir apparent to Jaycox as the most prolific scorer in the area. After averaging just 8.3 points last season, Kaufman exploded out of the gates for the Knights, averaging 13.8 points during Fairview’s first four games.
Going into the Knights’ game Friday against Monarch, Kaufman is averaging 13.7 points a game. The first game of the season was the only one in which Kaufman did not reach double-figures in points, and she posted a career-best 23 points during a loss against Palmer on Dec. 15.
Moreover, Kaufman is steadily developing the sort of icy veins prevalent among clutch scorers. The junior kept the Knights in the game during the fourth quarter Tuesday against defending 5A state champion Legacy with a pair of 3-pointers and had what would have been a third in a row fall aside after rattling halfway through the hoop.
While defenses no longer are overlooking Kaufman — she has been held to 24 points in the Knights’ past two games — the junior nonetheless is fulfilling the goals she set at the beginning of what she planned would be a breakout season.
“I put a lot of work in during the offseason and played club all summer. I also did a lot of work on my own,” Kaufman said. “Coming into this season, we had a lot of seniors graduate from last year and there was a lot of leadership opportunity. I knew I needed to be one of the players that steps up.”
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