Junior Ray Gasaway, left, and the fifth-seeded Smoky Hill boys basketball team — who have won their first two games of the Class 6A state tournament by 20-plus points — face No. 4 Denver East in a Great 8 contest on March 4, 2023, at the Denver Coliseum. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | A capsule preview of the 2023 Class 6A boys basketball state tournament Great 8 contest between Smoky Hill and Denver East scheduled for March 4, 2023:

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at sports@sentinelcolorado.com.Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


NO. 5 SMOKY HILL (20-5) vs. NO. 4 DENVER EAST (Z)

March 4, 10:15 a.m. at Denver Coliseum

BREAKDOWN: Smoky Hill and Denver East square off in the state playoffs for the fourth time in the past 16 seasons and the Buffaloes won the last meeting, which came in the Class 5A Sweet 16 of the 2018 season. The Angels won the a contest in the same round the year before and also a Great 8 matchup in 2007. …Smoky Hill broke a three-season losing streak in the Sweet 16 and has five trips to the Great 8 since 2006, which was the last time it advanced to the Final Four. Denver East — which lost in the semifinals last season — has the second-most all-time state championships in Colorado history with 11, though the last one came in 2014. …The game is the second among an eight-team slate of alternating girls and boys Great 8 contests.

SMOKY HILL: Coach Anthony Hardin’s team finished the regular season with a third-place finish in the Centennial League Tournament and followed that up with an 80-57 victory over No. 28 Rocky Mountain in the first round, which was followed by a 77-59 Sweet 16 defeat of No. 12 Fruita Monument. In the postseason, senior Rickey Mitchell — who had a 24-point game against Fruita-Monument — has averaged 19 points per contest, while freshman Kai McGrew has tallied 11.5 points per game and junior Ray Gasaway 10.5 ppg. …For the season, Mitchell carries a scoring average of 23.8 points per game that ranks him second in 6A, while he also leads his team in assists per game (4.2) as well as steals (2.6 spg). McGrew is the only other double-digit scorer by average for the Buffaloes at 10.2 points per game, which he couples with a team-leading average of 8.2 rebounds per game and 2.4 blocked shots. Sophomore Lorenzo Contreras and Gasaway average 9.2 and 9.1 points per game, respectively.

DENVER EAST: The Angels are headed by accomplished veteran Rudy Carey, who became Colorado’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach during the regular season, and come into the game on a 23-game winning streak that followed losses in each of their first two games of the season. In the playoffs, Denver East opened with a 72-47 win over No. 29 Arapahoe and then took out another Centennial League team — No. 20 Eaglecrest — 80-65 in the Sweet 16. Senior D’Aundre Samuels recorded a triple-double in the opening win over Arapahoe and has averaged 27.5 points per game in the postseason, while senior Gil Gonzalez has averaged 12 ppg, senior Austin Mohr 11.5 and senior Jack Greenwood 10.5. …For the season, Samuels is fifth in 6A with a scoring average of 21.9 points per game, while he leads his team in every statistical category (7.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 5.0 steals per contest). Mohr has drained 57 3-pointers that has helped him to a 15.8 ppg average, while Greenwood checks in at 10.6 ppg and Gonzalez at 9.2 ppg.

WINNER GETS: The Smoky Hill-Denver East winner takes the championship of the Tom Robinson Region and advances to the March 10 Final Four, where it will face the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 1 Mountain Vista and No. 8 Valor Christian.

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...

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