Landon Taliaferro sat on the bench and soaked it all in while watching Garrett Turner sink rival Fairview last year at the Coors Event Center. This year, the junior guard was salivating at the chance to take on the Knights with the bright lights shining on the Panthers.
While shots were at a premium the entire contest thanks to pretty mindful defense from both teams, Taliaferro and his purple-clad teammates on Thursday night were selective from start to finish in a 46-34 win over FHS.
There was no doubt, too, that Boulder was going to push the pace whenever they possessed the ball, negating the slow-it-down approach Fairview took from the outset of the game.
“At first it was a little nerve-wracking, but after I settled in a little bit, it was a fun experience, for sure,” said Taliaferro, who transferred from Shining Mountain after his freshman season. “The spotlight was on our whole team, really, because we were the ones expected to perform well. I think we did that, so all the credit goes to my teammates.”
The Panthers were well under their average in terms of field goal attempts in this one, but Taliaferro and his teammates got the looks they wanted — both inside and out. Taliaferro went 5 for 10 for 13 points to lead the way, while Boulder was 11 for 26 for the game.
Boulder, now 13-4 on the season, also held it together during some lengthy Fairview offensive possessions — the opening Knights possession lasted 1 minute, 25 seconds before a shot went up, and there were more like that throughout. That pleased Boulder coach Eric Eisenhard, whose team also moved to 5-1 in the Front Range League.
“Boulder basketball is to play in the open floor, because we have so many skilled guards, and big men for that matter,” Eisenhard said. “Fairview got off to a nice start, but our kids did a good job of staying poised, composed against the offensive patience (of FHS). We didn’t panic and just stayed with what we were doing. We anticipated that we might have to grind things out if we got down at a certain point in the game. “
The stall approach worked at first for Fairview (8-8, 3-2). Open 3-pointers from Kamran Shahbaz and Chris Arehart helped bring the Knights to an early 14-9 edge that spilled over into the second quarter.
From the 4:29 mark of the second frame until the 5:57 mark of the third, Boulder held Fairview to limited attempts and went on a 13-3 run to forge a lead. Leif Blessing was a key contributor as the second half started, hitting a reverse layup to make it 20-17 BHS and then nailing a baseline jumper off a Turner pass for Boulder’s next points.
While Tommy Baumgartner made a 3-pointer with 1:47 to go in the third to make it 28-22, Boulder didn’t make that many more shots from the floor the rest of the way. However, they did deny Fairview on the defensive end and took advantage of their 17 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter (13 makes).
Blessing, a senior, had all nine of his points after halftime and also grabbed four rebounds and a had a blocked shot in the fourth quarter. Baumgartner finished with seven points, and Turner contributed in a variety of ways including 11 points, nine from free throws, as he continued to be aggressive.
“We wanted to get fast break points and be aggressive when we got the ball,” Taliaferro said. “Every shot mattered because they were taking so much time on the offensive end, so we had to take good shots when he could.”
“I think we did a really good job of working and staying with them (defensively) and not ending possessions with mental lapses,” Blessing said. “We stayed solid and made them work for every basket. I am really glad to get this win, for me and all of the seniors on this team.”
For Fairview coach Frank Lee, the game was a matter of his team not completing its patient approach thoroughly. Fairview had more field goals than Boulder in the second half, but the Knights also only had four free throw attempts.
After a solid start, Shahbaz came alive late to post 11 points. Arehart was held scoreless in the second half and finished with eight points.
“I thought if we ran up and down with them, that would be to a disadvantage to us,” Lee said. “We did control the tempo a lot of times, but not the whole time, and we had 14 turnovers and they had four. Credit them for that.
“Our shot selection was a little questionable during the second half, I thought.”
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BOULDER 46, FAIRVIEW 34
At Coors Events Center
FAIRVIEW (8-8, 3-2)
Kamran Shahbaz 5 0-0 11, Steele Mercer 0 2-2 2, Johnny Feauto 0 1-2 1, Mitco Petrov 0 0-0 0, Kailash Graham-Bell 1 1-1 3, Chris Arehart 3 1-2 8, Chris Weatherly 1 0-0 3, Evan Grainger 1 0-1 2, Trevor Simmons 2 0-0 4, Cole Heisner 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 5-8 34.
BOULDER (13-4, 5-1)
Garrett Turner 1 9-13 11, Landon Taliaferro 5 3-4 13, Jack Boyle 0 0-0 0, Savoy Carl 1 0-0 3, Garrett Johnston 0 0-0 0, Morgan Hohlfelder 0 0-0 0, Bill DiScipio 0 3-4 3, Tommy Baumgartner 2 2-4 7, Leif Blessing 3 3-4 9. Totals 12 20-29 46.
Score by quarters:
Fairview 12 5 7 10 — 34
Boulder 7 11 11 17 — 46
3-point field goals — Fairview (3): Shahbaz, Arehart, Weatherly; Boulder (2): Carl, Baumgartner . Total fouls — Fairview 22, Boulder 13. Fouled out — Feauto, Grainger.