AURORA | With the playoffs looming, Grandview boys basketball coach Michael Rogers feels it’s vital that his team gets better at closing out games.
While there is room for improvement, the Wolves have shown a pretty steady ability to win close games this season, as they improved to 7-3 in games decided by five points or less with their dramatic 55-51 victory at Smoky Hill Wednesday night.
Junior Lechaun Duhart went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute and scored a team-high 18 points, junior Gaige Prim added 13 and senior Ben Boone 11 as Grandview swept two games from the Buffs by a combined five points. (Photo gallery of the game, here.)
“With this team, the majority of our wins are close; I don’t think we have too many double-digit wins if we have any at all,” said Rogers, whose team has just three double-digit wins among its 12 victories this season.
“We start making some mental mistakes and we lose our discipline at times, and that’s when teams take advantage,” he added. “As long as we play disciplined, we play 10 times better.”
Grandview (12-8, 6-5) had nine-point leads on three occasions, but couldn’t quite shake Smoky Hill, which aimed to avenge a 63-62 loss at the buzzer to the Wolves a month earlier.
The Wolves’ last nine-point edge came in the fourth quarter after back-to-back 3-pointers by Boone and Duhart’s inside basket, while the Buffs (3-17, 1-10) countered with a 10-1 run to tie the game at 48-48 with just under two minutes remaining.
Sophomore Kyle Cabs scored five straight for Smoky Hill and after Prim got one point back for Grandview with a free throw, sophomore Mue Muwwakkil had a steal and layup (giving him a game-high 19 points) and junior Kyle Colen had a tip-follow to make it a one-point game.
Cabs connected on 1-of-2 free throws to forge a tie for the first and only time in the game before Prim and Duhart each made two free throws for a four-point edge.
“At the beginning of the year, we weren’t very good with free throws, but we really started to take them seriously and it shows in games,” said Duhart, an 82 percent free throw shooter on the season. “It helps when we take those serious in practice.”
Despite the clutch free throw makes, Smoky Hill pulled within 52-51 on Colen’s 3-pointer with 40 seconds left.
After Gunner Gentry made 1-of-2 free throws to give the Wolves a two-point advantage, Colen was just off the mark with a corner 3-pointer for the lead with 15 seconds left and Duhart made two more free throws to put Grandview in a comfortable position.
“Everything was by design, we knew they were playing a lot of attention to Kenny (Foster, who had 13 points, including nine in the third quarter), so we got Kyle a ball-side shot in the right hand corner where he likes it,” Smoky Hill coach Anthony Hardin said. “We got the exact shot from the exact person we wanted, it just didn’t go down.”
While Grandview has been able to win the tight games, the Buffs’ loss dropped them to 1-5 in games decided by six points or less. A two-point win over Mullen is the lone victory, while Smoky Hill lost to Grandview by one and four points, to Arvada West by four, to Aurora Central by five and to Rocky Mountain by six.
Hardin believes a win at Mullen on Feb. 17 would be enough to get the Buffaloes into the 5A postseason field, which would be an important step for a team that started two juniors, two sophomores and a freshmen.
“If we do get in the tournament, we’re not going to get a seed we’re excited about, but there’s nobody we haven’t played yet or a level we haven’t seen yet,” said Hardin, highlighting a schedule that has included two games vs. No. 3 Overland, two against No. 4 Eaglecrest, one each against No. 1 Rangeview, No. 5 Rock Canyon and No. 7 ThunderRidge plus two against a 15-win Cherokee Trail, another against 14-win Aurora Central and one versus 13-win Arvada West.
Grandview, meanwhile, is tied with Cherry Creek for fourth place in the Centennial League standings with three games left. The Wolves play host to Mullen on Feb. 12, visit Eaglecrest on Feb. 17 and play host to Overland — which they beat 53-50 on Jan. 27 — Feb. 19 to close the regular season.
“I think we’re getting ready (for the playoffs),” Duhart said. “We need to tighten up a few things on offense, but other than that, things are looking great.”
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
GRANDVIEW 55, SMOKY HILL 51
Score by quarters:
Grandview 11 14 14 16 — 55
Smoky Hill 2 15 17 17 — 51
Gunner Gentry 1 1-2 3, Jordan Knapke 1 0-0 2, Lechaun Duhart 5 6-6 18, Justin Jones 4 0-0 8, Gaige Prim 5 3-5 13, Ben Boone 4 0-0 11, Zach Sundine 0 0-0 0, Max Boyd 0 0-0 0, Spencer Ederhoff 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-13 55.
SMOKY HILL (51)
Kyle Cabs 1 5-6 8, Kyle Colen 2 0-0 5, Mue Muwwakkil 8 3-3 19, Deon Williams 1 0-1 2, Kenny Foster 3 7-8 13, Jordan Newton 1 0-0 2, Isaiah Sanford 0 0-0 0, Paddy Walsh 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 15-18 51.
3-point field goals — Grandview (5): Ben Boone 3, Lechaun Duhart 2; Smoky Hill (2): Kyle Cabs, Kyle Colen. Total fouls — Grandview 16, Smoky Hill 17. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — None.