AURORA | The Overland boys basketball team has certainly had one of the most difficult opening stretches of any team around, the benefits of which may show up at the end of the season.
In just over a week to open the season, the Trailblazers have faced Regis Jesuit, Rock Canyon and George Washington — teams with a combined record of 13-1 — and lost all three by a combined total of just 18 points.
Overland let a victory slip through its fingers Friday night in a pack house in its own gym against the visiting Patriots, a Class 5A state semifinalist a year ago. Coach Danny Fisher’s Trailblazers (0-3) led by 12 points at halftime, but missed nine free throws in the second half — and 17 for the game — as George Washington (4-1) rallied for a 58-56 victory.
In a short turnaround after a six-point loss to undefeated and top-ranked Rock Canyon the previous night, Overland came out charged up and feeding off the energy in the building.
Senior guard Daijon Smith blew the lid off the place in the closing minutes of the first quarter with a jaw-dropping one-handed dunk.
Smith got a feed from teammate Alex Pena-Avila after a long miss from the Patriots’ Jon’il Fugett, took a few dribbles and soared in the air towards the rim past Fugett to throw it down over 6-foot-7 George Washington center D’Auntray Pierce as he was fouled.
But Smith — who finished with 15 points, one behind senior Tucson Redding for team high — missed the ensuing free throw, a theme that became more prevalent the rest of the night. Overland went 1-for-6 from the charity stripe in the period, yet still took a 31-19 lead into halftime.
A 22-point third quarter for the Patriots — keyed by Devin Carter’s six points and four from Pierce, who finished with a team-high 16 — made a three-point game going to the final quarter.
George Washington finally tied it up at 47-47 after a Pierce put-back and the lead see-sawed back and forth until Overland took a one-point lead with 45 seconds remaining.
The Patriots scored the last three points of the game to come away with the victory.
Overland faces another of the state’s best teams — 6-1 ThunderRidge — on its home floor at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 before it departs for Las Vegas for its annual trip to the Tarkanian Classic.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
GEORGE WASHINGTON 58, OVERLAND 56
Score by quarters:
Geo. Wash. 12 7 22 17 — 58
Overland 17 14 13 12 — 56
GEORGE WASHINGTON (58)
Jon’il Fugett 3 2-2 9, Devin Carter 4 0-0 8, D’Auntray Pierce 7 2-3 16, Mohammed Diallo 2 0-0 4, Xavier Cooper 2 4-7 8, Shawn’Trell White 1 2-3 4, Kendale Johnson 2 1-1 5, Devon Jones 1 0-0 2, JoVon Nelson 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 11-16 58.
Tucson Redding 4 7-10 16, Hezekiah Swanson 0 2-4 2, Stephen Hayes 1 1-4 3, Laolu Oke 0 0-0 0, Goy Wang 0 0-0 0, Daijon Smith 6 3-7 15, Alex Pena-Avila 3 0-0 6, Ryland Clark III 2 3-6 7, Jalone Rice 3 0-2 7. Totals 19 16-33 56.
3-point field goals — George Washington: Jon’il Fugett; Overland (2): Tucson Redding, Jalone Rice. Total fouls — George Washington 24, Overland 22. Fouled out — George Washington: D’Auntray Piercer; Overland: Laolu Oke, Daijon Smith. Technical fouls — George Washington: Mohammed Diallo.