Posted On: 03/5/18 11:30 AM
The Denver Coliseum is a magical place as teams are fighting for the opportunity to play in the Great-8 at a neutral location for most teams. If you make it there it means that you’re having a successful season and given yourself the chance to go all the way. On Saturday, the teams there was Overland, George Washington, Smoky Hill, Thunder Ridge, Doherty, Rock Canyon, Chaparral and Grandview and we saw some intense and meaningful basketball. Here’s my five takeaways on the day.
Doherty can play, Joe Golden shows heart
Not many outside of Colorado Springs get the opportunity to see players from the Springs play, but when we do, they always impress. What this team did this year was special. The Spartans went undefeated in league play and 21-5 on the season with four of their losses coming from teams in the top-10. Their loss in the Great 8 should open many eyes to the great coaching staff and bright future they have out there and a player that really stood out more than maybe any other player on Saturday was Joe Golden. What he did in his final high school staff was spectacular as he showed tremendous heart and sportsmanship as he competed until the final whistle. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and was a one man wrecking crew that did everything to keep his team in the game. Thunder Ridge was forced to make adjustments based solely off of him and to lose on a buzzer beater is devastating, but, the Spartans gave their all and that’s all a coach can ask for.
Thunder Ridge wins at the buzzer
In a game that looked as if it were heading into overtime, it was the Thunder Ridge Grizzlies that won 45-43 over Doherty with a heads-up play. Earlier in the week I chose for Bailey Verk to be the X-factor in the game, he became the hero as he led the team in scoring and also hit the basket that counted the most. Kaison Hammonds is the Grizzlies leading scorer, on Friday, he took a different route, their best playmaker. He finished the game with 12 points and with the game on the line after a friendly roll from Kyrele Benford the Grizzlies got the rebound and gave it to their best player. Hammonds drove to the lane and unlike most stars who would take the final shot decided to make a better play and dropped it off to the wide open Verk for the game winning lay-up with essentially no time left on the clock which has the Grizzlies advancing to the Final Four.
Ronnie DeGray III vs. Dayne Prim was everything
There was a highly anticipated battle between two of the best big men in the class of 2019. Chaparral’s DeGray has been having the best year out of any junior in the state and is in the running for Mr. Basketball at season’s end. He scored 25 points to lead all scorers and recorded two steals and had one of the plays of the year in a dunk over two defenders. He’s got a bright future and showed he’s one of the best players in the state.
On the flip side, Dayne Prim was just as good and willed his team to victory. He finished with 16 points and seven rebounds but the timing of those baskets is what sealed the victory. He was an efficient 8/9 from the field and was too much to handle in the paint as he kept many plays alive and issued relief once the press was put on that almost changed the outcome of the game. He defended well and shows high basketball I.Q. and will be the player the Wolves rely on if they want to get past their biggest test yet this Friday.
George Washington escapes
George Washington is a fast-paced team that can matchup with any team in the state and although it may not come easy, they always seem to find a way to win those close battles. They were up against a stubborn Smoky Hill team that found ways to stick around despite one of their best players going down early with an injury and it came down to the final shot, the Patriots got it to their best playmaker. With 3.5 seconds Jon’il Fugett hit an improbable game winner to send the Patriots to the Final Four for the second straight season. Mohammed Diallo was the leading scorer, Shawn’Trell White was the difference maker and Fugett was the hero.
Rock Canyon bends, but doesn’t break
Rock Canyon vs. Overland was the last game of the night and it delivered. Overland is a tough unit that has no quit in them as they bring it from start to finish and hit their opponent with massive runs, Friday was no different. They had the No.1 team in the state with their backs against the wall and then Sam Masten and Tyson Gilbert showed up when it mattered. I’m Unsure how many times we’ve seen this team look as if they were going to lose and then they put together an impressive run that eventually wins the game. This is an experienced bunch that just knows how to win. Masten finished with 19 points and Gilbert added 15, both made huge plays in the second half to ensure the victory and improved the Jaguars to 24-2 overall and one step closer to a state title.