As is typical for high school coaches at this stage of the season, Boulder boys basketball leader Eric Eisenhard didn’t waste much time celebrating a big win.
Not long after the Panthers earned an impressive road win at Cherokee Trail Saturday afternoon, Eisenhard wandered over to Regis Jesuit, where he dutifully took notes on Boulder’s next opponent in the Class 5A Sweet 16.
Not long after that, Eisenhard was having dinner with veteran Regis coach Ken Shaw.
But don’t worry, Panthers fans. Eisenhard wasn’t about to reveal any of the observations he’d just noted regarding the Raiders. Instead the coaches talked about college hoops and the NBA as they renewed an old friendship.
Eisenhard, a former assistant under Shaw at Regis who still has regular conversations with his former mentor, very nearly eliminated Shaw’s Raiders from the state tournament on the road two years ago. The Panthers will get another shot at another top-seeded Regis team Wednesday night when the teams collide in the Class 5A Sweet 16 at 6 p.m.
“We talk every few days. It’s a friendship made through basketball, but it’s not just about basketball anymore,” Eisenhard said. “I don’t look at (Wednesday) like that because it’s really about the kids. I know that sounds cliche, but these guys have spent four years getting to this point. They don’t care that I ever worked at Regis.”
Two years ago, a similarly scrappy Boulder team went into the raucous venue at Regis and very nearly pulled off a second-round upset, falling by four points after current Gonzaga freshman Josh Perkins rallied the Raiders late.
Although the Panthers fell short of victory, that effort may have set a blueprint for Boulder’s road prowess over the past two years. The Panthers went on the road to knock off a higher-seeded Aurora Central team in the first round last year before doing the same this past weekend at Cherokee Trail.
While Eisenhard is quick to point out the home crowds at Boulder have been bigger and more boisterous this season, that hasn’t always been the case during his four-season tenure. Eisenhard believes his team’s focused road mentality has developed as much from playing in more vibrant settings as the us-against-the world attitude his club adopts every time the Panthers step off a bus.
“When it’s just our unit against a whole gym, I think our guys really embrace that,” Eisenhard said. “I think our kids are really, really tight and there is a real brotherhood that has developed there the last couple of years. The atmosphere at Regis is unlike just about anything in the state. It’s a small gym with a big crowd, but we always feel like it’s 14 strong against the whole gym.”
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