In putting up 26 3-point attempts Monday night, the Boulder High boys basketball team looked very much like the team of old against Ralston Valley.
The level of increased talent and toughness on the interior, however, has made the Panthers a much different squad, and it showed in their opener at the BHS gym.
A strong presence around the paint on both offense and defense led to big things against a bigger Mustangs team, and Boulder walked off the floor with a resounding 74-35 win to get the 2014-15 campaign off on the right foot.
“From an interior standpoint, I was really pleased, and that just makes the job so much easier for our guards,” said head coach Eric Eisenhard, whose team won’t get any breaks with Grandview and Arvada West up next. “There’s no question (of improvement). Morgan (Hohlfelder) has matured as an athlete and is going to do big things for us this year, and I think Ben (Posthumus), who played (junior varsity) last year, is ready to step up and fill a role. It’s nice to have some options in there.”
The work of Hohlfelder, Leif Blessing and Posthumus, among others, was easily recognizable against a team in Ralston Valley that boasts 6-foot-10 junior Antonio Capley. While the Mustangs were still able to get their fair share of offensive rebounds, second and third chances were defended just as well as Boulder started to open up a lead.
On offense, while guards Garrett Turner (16 points) and Landon Taliaferro (17) provided solid shooting, it was the work inside that got them open on the wings.
Hohlfelder pitched in eight points as well, mixing in a couple of reverse layups with a huge putback in the third quarter.
“Coach always tells us to get low and get help-side, just be tough and really focus on defense,” Taliaferro said. “I can’t say enough about the inside guys. “
“We prepared well for that, but I think we have some talented guys on the inside,” Hohlfelder said. “We are all strong and get good position. We’ve had some struggles in the past with that, and we’ve really developed, came back and are doing better.”
The Panthers were coming off preseason scrimmages against Denver East and Fossil Ridge, the two teams that made the Class 5A championship game last season.
Eisenhard admitted they got handled pretty well, but he also said it served an instrumental purpose.
“I think the kids had to learn a lesson about toughness, to be honest, because those teams never back down to anybody,” Eisenhard said. “We learned we need to play with confidence and toughness, and tonight what we saw was a response to that.”
Clearly the message was received. Boulder made its first three shots while drawing several offensive fouls on the other end, and the result was an 11-4 lead after one quarter.
Both teams were in the double-bonus with 6 minutes left in the half, but Ralston Valley couldn’t take advantage, shooting just 3 of 14 from the floor in the second quarter and scoring just 12 points in the frame.
The Mustangs cut an 18-9 Boulder lead to 18-13, but Taliaferro hit three 3-pointers over the final 2:52 of the half, giving Boulder a 29-16 lead at the break.
The Panthers worked the ball smartly the entire third quarter to hit 8 of 19 shots, and with the score 40-24 and 3:01 left on the clock Taliaferro was fouled after hitting yet another 3-pointer. An intentional foul was called, giving Turner another two free throws plus Boulder possession, and the Panthers never looked back.
“We like to swing the ball and get good shot selections,” Taliaferro said. “When you have the inside-out game going, that’s great. We just like to have fun on offense.”
“The first game, you never know what you’re going to get, but I was pleased,” Eisenhard said.
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BOULDER 74, RALSTON VALLEY 35
At Boulder HS
RALSTON VALLEY (0-1)
Gomes 0 1-2 1, Wingard 0 1-2 1, Schindler 1 1-3 3, Parker 3 2-4 9, Greco 3 2-3 8, Conrad 1 0-0 2, Capley 3 3-4 9, Jelinek 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 10-21 35.
Turner 4 6-6 16, Taliaferro 6 0-0 17, Boyle 0 10-14 10, Carl 0 5-6 5, Johnston 3 0-0 8, Hohlfelder 4 0-1 8, DiScipio 1 3-3 5, Baumgartner 1 0-0 2, Kelly 0 1-2 1, Blessing 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 25-32 74.
Score by quarters:
Ralston Valley 4 12 9 10 — 35
Boulder 11 18 21 24 — 74
3-point field goals — Ralston Valley (1): Parker; Boulder (9): Taliaferro 5, Johnston 2, Turner 2. Total fouls — Ralston Valley 26, Boulder 21. Fouled out — Schindler.