LITTLETON — Since the moment Kyle Blauch stepped on the floor for his sophomore season, Boulder boys basketball fans knew he was something special.
A year later, that notion has only amplified. Leading into Wednesday night’s road matchup at Rock Canyon, the junior power forward was already nearly averaging a double-double with 19.5 points per game and 9.8 boards per game. He almost met that scoring average in the first half with 16 points.
The offense moved through and around Blauch, as he served as the lifeblood of the Panther purple. He was their muscle in the paint and a dangerous wing that could put up points from any area of the floor. In fact, the big man mostly flirted with the mid-range on Wednesday night.
Head coach Matthew Smith wasn’t surprised by his continual rise from his freshman year, mostly because of his work ethic.
“Between playing club ball, between working with us, individual coaching, his work ethic is showing right now,” Smith said. “That’s it. There’s nothing else to it. He can come out and do whatever he wants, every single night. He plays within our offense, he plays within the set, he does exactly what I ask him to do. We try to give as much support to him as we can, but he can go out and do 30 a night if he needs. But we don’t have to rely on that. Part of that is just because of the presence he is.”
Blauch ended his night with 20 points as seven other players managed to get at least one field goal in.
The Panthers, however, couldn’t match the level of intensity that the Jaguars were throwing down as outside shooting consistently failed to gain steam. Rock Canyon defeated the Panthers 71-44 after burying them early.
It didn’t help that the Jaguars opened the second half with 16 unanswered points. The tough loss, which set the Panthers back to a 4-3 record to start the new year, still didn’t detract from Blauch’s dominating performance in the first half. He accounted for 16 of Boulder’s 20 points after 16 minutes of play, but ended up sitting much of the second half as RCHS pulled away quickly.
Blauch’s presence in the post, on either end of the floor, has established the trust with his teammates that he’ll give them the second chances the team needs. All they need to do is shoot the ball.
“If you look, in the last two years he’s had five games over 20 boards,” Smith said. “He’s already shattered all of our school records for rebounding, and he still has a year. He’ll go down as the greatest rebounder Boulder’s ever seen and part of that is why you’re seeing what you’re seeing.”
Blauch exploded onto the high school scene in his first two junior games as he rang in the 2022-23 season with back-to-back 28-point performances over Greeley West and Denver East. And, while that flame inevitably started to smolder after that, he still held a small spark that could ignite at any moment.
To date, he hasn’t scored in single digits in any given contest, even against teams as tough as Rock Canyon.
He’s had some help this year, as the Panthers appear like they’ll easily outperform the 5-18 record they finished the 2021-22 season with. And he’s not alone in the double-digit club, with junior point guard George Schmid and junior Riley Stein contributing 12.4 and 12.3 points per game, respectively, prior to Wednesday night.
“I think for the most part, we’re playing more as a team than last season,” Blauch said. “I mean, the chemistry is unbelievable. Last year, we had problems within the team and it was a toxic locker room but I think this year, everyone is really playing for each other for the most part. Tonight, obviously, some stuff didn’t go our way but I think everyone’s fighting for each other and everyone loves each other.”
On Saturday, they’ll have a strong chance to put themselves back in the win column when they visit a 2-5 Horizon team. Smith hopes they’ll be ready for whatever they’ll face as Front Range League play begins.
“I really hope that they take to heart what was said in the locker room about finding who we’re going to be,” Smith said. “Are we just going to duplicate errors from the past or are we going to become a solid unit? We’re going to find who we are. Are we going to fight? Are we going to be the team that simply outworks everyone? Or are we going to continue to allow other people to dictate what we do? That was the message in not as nice of words, but that was the message. We change things tomorrow.”