AURORA | John Harge is never shy when it comes to attacking the rim and his timing was perfect for it Wednesday.
With 2 minutes, 45 seconds, left and his Smoky Hill team clinging to a five-point lead against George Washington, the high-flying senior forward caught an inbounds pass, dribbled a couple of times and exploded for a one-handed dunk.
Harge’s rim-rocker helped push coach Anthony Hardin’s homestanding Buffaloes to the finish line of a 61-52 victory over the Patriots in a matchup of top-five Class 5A boys basketball teams.
Smoky Hill (4-2) avenged last season’s seven-point loss to George Washington (4-2), which lost to Eaglecrest in the state championship game.
Junior Kenny Foster and sophomore Quinten Rock paced the Buffaloes with 15 points apiece and Harge added 13.
Fresh off a 2-1 showing at the Great Western Shootout in Orem, Utah, Smoky Hill fell behind George Washington 2-0 off the opening tip, but were tied or in the lead the rest of the way.
The Buffaloes put on a passing clinic in the second half with their passing, including a sequence where senior Will Becker whipped a pass to a cutting Rock for a layup and Harge finished on a nice feed from Foster.
The sharing of the basketball helped produce an eight-point lead at the break, but Smoky Hill couldn’t quite put away a George Washington team that hit a wide variety of mid- and long-range jump shots.
The Buffaloes’ lead got down to two points with an early Patriots run and Hardin began to see some negative body language from his team.
Foster, who suffered a knee injury on the Utah trip from which he is still on the mend, drained a corner 3-pointer to get Smoky Hill back on track and followed that with a three-point play a minute later as the Buffs edged out a 10-point lead.
The advantage was just three points going into the final quarter and stayed that way at 47-44 with 3:55 left in regulation.
Harge had a team-high eight points in the first half, but saw limited action in the second half due to foul trouble.
He asserted himself in a major way down the stretch with two free throw makes and followed it up with his vicious dunk, which came after teammate Kyle Cabs lobbed him an inbounds pass on the wing at the free throw line. The 6-foot-8 senior dribbled toward the basket, skied between George Washington’s D’Auntray Pierce and Mohammed Diallo and threw it down.
Harge and Foster both fouled out in the final minute, but Smoky Hill had enough of an edge to hold on.
The Buffaloes play at Rocky Mountain at 7 p.m. Dec. 19.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
SMOKY HILL 61, GEORGE WASHINGTON 52
Score by quarters:
Geo. Wash. 11 8 18 15 — 52
Smoky Hill 14 13 13 21 — 61
GEORGE WASHINGTON (52)
Jon’il Fugett 7 3-3 18, Devin Carter 0 0-0 0, D’Auntray Pierce 3 4-6 10, Mohammed Diallo 3 4-7 10, Devon Jones 2 0-0 5, Xavier Cooper 1 1-2 3, JoVon Nelson 2 2-2 6, Shawn’Trell White 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 14-20 52.
SMOKY HILL (61)
Quinten Rock 3 7-9 15, John Harge 5 3-4 13, Will Becker 2 2-2 6, Kenny Foster 4 6-7 15, Kyle Cabs 1 4-6 6, Eric Williams 1 2-2 4, Muu Muwwakkil 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 24-30 61.
3-point field goals — George Washington (2): Jon’il Fugett, Devon Jones; Smoky Hill (3): Quinten Rock 2, Kenny Foster. Total fouls — George Washington 19, Smoky Hill 17. Fouled out — George Washington: Fugett; Smoky Hill: Foster, John Harge. Technical fouls — George Washington: Delay of game; Smoky Hill: Delay of game