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BOULDER — If the Boulder girls basketball team is living on a mantra, it is that the Panthers are either winning or learning each and every time they take the floor.

Saturday’s contest at the Boulder gym would definitely fall under the category of “a learner.”

The Valor Christian press was undeniably fierce against the Panthers in the non-league contest — Boulder’s third in three days — and the home team buckled in a 54-35 loss to finish out a tiring stretch in coach Sara Klippert’s first week at the helm.

Struggling out of the gates for the second time, Boulder was forced into 28 turnovers, many of them early as the Eagles spread the floor on defense looking to force fast, errant passes. It worked to the tune of a 20-1 lead at one point for VCHS, and the 3-0 Eagles never looked back.

Senior Jacque Szarmach knows the Panthers have been dealt a tough schedule to start the year, finally seeing the clouds open up with a full week of practice next week before a tournament. But that was no excuse, she said, for the disastrous start on Saturday. Also having in mind that facing the press defense is going to be a year-long thing, Szarmach said the Panthers got some good lessons in defeat.

“These preseason games, (learning is) what we’re supposed to do,” she said after scoring nine points and hauling in six rebounds. “We had three games right in a row, and so we haven’t had practices to get ready and prepare. Not to use that as an excuse, but … we’re going to work on our press breaks and work on seeing the open man.

“In the Front Range League, you get pressed every game no matter what, so we’re going to be working on that the most.”

“We have to play all four quarters if we want to win basketball games because we are not where we need to be yet,” said Klippert, who was hired in October. “I’m asking a lot of the girls, because I have eight girls who hadn’t seen any varsity minutes yet. We’ll get better, and I know the girls are upset with this loss because they didn’t play to their full potential.”

The Panthers relied heavily on Vivi Gregorich and Szarmach to provide scoring, as the pair combined for 23 of the team’s points. After closing out the first quarter down 20-3 and hitting just one field goal, the Panthers did settle down a little bit on offense despite just as many turnovers in the second quarter as they had in the first.

Szarmach scored five of her points in the frame, and BHS got a couple of field goals from Izzie Burridge and Zoe Myers. But the Panthers just could not get a successful run of points, and Klippert said the team is going to have to get a little more balanced instead of relying solely on Szarmach and Gregorich.

“We can’t just lean on them all the time,” Klippert said.

Not everything has been uneasy for the Panthers, as they produced a solid win against Pomona on Friday night, and Gregorich said the locker room is excited to have Klippert leading the way. There is a lot of basketball left, and the senior feels Klippert to be the ultimate motivator.

“I think coach is amazing for our program, and I think she might be the first coach I’ve had since I’ve been here that really pushes us to be 100 percent effort on the floor,” Gregorich said.

Szarmach agreed.

“She’s always been the one to push me … and the feeling sucks when you disappoint her,” she said. “I know everyone on the team wants to win for her.”

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VALOR CHRISTIAN 54, BOULDER 35

At Boulder HS

VALOR CHRISTIAN (3-0)

McCoy 4 0-0 9, Thibault 2 1-2 5, Hammond 1 0-0 2, Gibson 3 0-0 6, Bryan 7 1-1 15, Waldon 2 0-0 4, Bradbury 4 2-4 11, Rose 0 0-2 0, Lo 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 4-9 54.

BOULDER (1-2)

Szarmach 4 0-1 9, Gregorich 2 8-10 14, Sullivan 0 2-3 2, Reeves 0 1-2 1, Burridge 1 0-0 2, Garza 2 1-2 5, Myers 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 12-18 35.

Score by quarters:

Valor Christian 20 17 9 8 — 54

Boulder 3 12 8 12 — 35

3-point field goals — Valor (2): McCoy, Bradbury; Boulder (3): Gregorich 2, Szarmach. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.

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