Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
BOULDER — Boulder sophomore Alex Rucker fired a perfect full-court pass to Adam Sessions for the easy layup in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter Monday night. Earlier, Sessions had a highlight-reel dish of his own squeeze through two defenders on the fast break.
It was another on-point performance for the Panthers, who beat the Far Northeast Warriors 76-62 at home in what has been a feel-good, 3-0 start to the New Year following a 1-9 beginning to the season.
“We knew our time would come if we kept working and kept our heads down,” Rucker said.
Following a 61-46 loss to CHSAANow 5A No. 1 Mountain Vista on Dec. 11, Boulder first-year coach Riley Grabau professed excitement for his young team that he deemed to be growing with each and every game. Now, in proving to be more than just ‘coach speak’, his team backed those feelings with strong showings against 5A powers to close the December schedule. And they have since brimmed with a level of confidence and maturity that wasn’t yet realized a month ago in three straight wins.
“Like everybody always says, you live throughout life and you live and you learn,” Grabau said. “You live and learn through experiences and through games, and through tough times and good times. Us as coaches, we are learning. And us as players, we are learning. We’re executing a little bit better every game and I think that’s the difference right there. But most importantly our fellas compete and play hard.”
Against a talented Warriors team (9-4), Boulder (4-9) didn’t waste time in taking its next step.
The Panthers hit their first four 3-pointers of the game while finishing 6 of 7 from beyond the perimeter in the opening quarter — minus a half-court heave that was blocked at the buzzer. Five different players hit from deep in the frame and the Panthers finished with a season-best 12 3s, going 12 of 18 from deep.
On the night, Boulder shot 51 percent from the field and held the Warriors 10 points below their season average (72.5).
“I think it’s as simple as we’ve grown so much over winter break,” said Sessions, who led the team with 17 points. “(Coach Grabau) has taught us so much.”
Boulder’s lead grew to 29-14 early in the second quarter led by two, well-executed fast-break hoops before Far Northeast made its first run.
The Warriors — a team that came into the night averaging 24.2 points per game more than the Panthers — rallied with 11 straight points on the strength of the hot hand of Tylon Page. They closed the deficit to as few as one in the final minutes of the half before the Panthers scored the final five points to hold a 36-30 lead at the break.
Then, it was Boulder’s scrappy defense taking over in the second half. Translating turnovers into easy baskets, the Panthers pushed their lead to as many as 24 in the fourth. Far Northeast did make another late push with Boulder’s starting group off the court, climbing back to 71-60 with 1:49 remaining. But Grabau put the starters back in and Rucker did his best Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic impersonation with a full-court assist to seal the win in style.
“That’s the best (impersonation) I can do I guess,” he laughed.
Whatever it is rubbing off on the Panthers, it appears to be working. They host Rocky Mountain on Tuesday.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew
Boulder 76, Far Northeast Warriors 62
At Boulder HS
FAR NORTHEAST (9-4)
Davis 8 2-4 18, Lewis 5 0-1 10, Grant 0 0-0 0, Bryant 0 0-0 0, Jackson 2 0-0 2, Hamilton 5 1-2 14, Furquan 0 0-0 0, Byrd 0 0-0 0, Matte 0 0-0 0, Page 5 0-0 10, Flores 0 0-0 0, Daniels 4 0-0 8, Poindexter 0 0-0 0, Harlan 0 0-0 0.
Sessions 6 2-3 17, Bartsch 0 0-0 0, R. Turner 0 2-2 2, Starry 0 0-0 0, Schmid 3 0-0 8, Tanner 3 2-4 8, T. Turner 5 1-2 13, Arthur 1 0-0 3, Davison 4 0-1 8, Boyle 2 0-0 6, Rucker 3 3-4 11.
Score by quarters:
Far Northeast Warriors (9-4) 14 16 10 22 — 62
3-point field goals — FNE Warriors (3): Hamilton 3; Boulder (12): Sessions 3, T. Turner 2, Boyle 2, Rucker 2, Schmid 2, Arthur. Total fouls — FNE Warriors 15, Boulder 12. Fouled out — No players fouled out. Technical fouls — No technical fouls.