CENTENNIAL | Peyton Taylor couldn’t hear anything for much of the key portions of Wednesday night’s Class 5A Sweet 16 showdown, but it was in the chaos that the junior guard and his Eaglecrest teammates did their best work.
A packed house atmosphere that saw the Raptors go against Centennial League and neighborhood rival Smoky Hill against each other for the third time — with this meeting amplified by the stakes — made for an off-the-chart decibel level.
Taylor made a variety of small, but epic plays in the crucial conclusion of Eaglecrest’s 67-60 victory over Smoky Hill that earned them a trip to play in the Great 8 at the Denver Coliseum. Senior Mostapha Elmoutaoukkil had 19 points, freshman LaDavian King scored 15 and senior Jayden Washington had 12 for coach Jarris Krapcha’s team, which has a matchup with No. 3 Chaparral Saturday.
“Most of the time it was so loud I couldn’t even call a play, we had to just look at each other and know what we were doing,” Taylor said. “I think we have the loudest and best fans in the whole state and the band brought it.”
The din grew loudest in the last four minutes, when the Buffaloes pulled to within a point after a burst that included a dunk by junior Terrell Smith, an inside hoop by senior Brayden Maldonado and a layup by junior Rickey Mitchell to make it 60-59 with 3:30 left.
The Centennial League champion Raptors (20-4) — who won their 14th consecutive game and finished 10-0 at The Nest — didn’t allow a single point the rest of the way.
“The in-game coaching was limited,” Krapcha said. “The players couldn’t hear me and we had hand signals for a couple offensive sets, but the players just had to go out and perform. So many times I was trying to get their attention to get them to match up, but it forced them to communicate. Overall, I thought we played really well.”
The degree of difficult at the end increased when Elmoutaoukkil — who had knocked down four of the Raptors’ nine 3-pointers and contribute 19 points — fouled out with 48.5 seconds left in a three-point game. Before he left, Elmoutaoukkil knocked down two free for a 62-59 edge after a big offensive rebound by Taylor.
Eaglecrest’s connectivity had to sustain it without its top player and it did.
“You have to trust your teammates,” said Elmoutaoukkil, who scored 14 points in the opening quarter, but had just five in the last three quarters.
With the lead cut to 62-60 after a free throw by Maldonado (who never got a second attempt after the Buffaloes were called for a lane violation), Taylor missed a free throw that could have pushed the lead back to three, but atoned on the other end when he tapped the ball away from Maldonado from behind.
The play resulted in a short jumper from Washington to make it a four-point game and Washington then rebounded Maldonado’s miss on the other end. Fouled again, Taylor missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but anticipated the miss and got the offensive rebound with only Smoky Hill players in the lane.
“I can tell where the ball is going and when it bounces, I’m ready,” said Taylor, who was credited for four offensive rebounds in the game.
“It was very big when I missed that free throw because we were able to take off five more seconds and we needed that,” he added. “That’s a pretty good team over there.”
After the intentional foul, Taylor made two more free throws and King — who scored a career-high 18 points in the previous playoff game against Highlands Ranch (story here) — cashed in 1-of-2 to seal the result.
“Sometimes you don’t box out guards as much and Peyton is really athletic,” Krapcha said. “He does so much for us defensively, handles the ball and does a lot of the dirty work.”
Krapcha said he got nervous when Smoky Hill cut the deficit to one point and he had good reason to be wary.
Coach Anthony Hardin’s Buffaloes — who finished 16-8 — weathered Eaglecrest’s early shooting display and calmly worked itself back into the game.
The Buffaloes chipped away nine points from their deficit over the middle two quarters, a span in which Mitchell scored 16 of his team-high 18 points, to set up a thrilling final quarter. Junior Jayson Lewis (12) and senior Anthony Harris Jr. (10) joined Mitchell in double figures.
Eaglecrest was the only Aurora-area team to advance to the Great 8, as 13th-seeded Rangeview lost a heartbreaker at No. 4 Denver East and 10th-seeded Regis Jesuit became the second straight top-10 victim of No. 26 Legacy, which won on the Raiders home court.
Rounding out the quarterfinal matchups: No. 9 Rock Canyon faces No. 1 ThunderRidge, Denver East will face No. 5 Douglas County and Legacy meets No. 2 Fossil Ridge.
“It’s going to be our first time there,” Elmoutaoukkil said of going to the Coliseum. “We just have to stick together and we’ll be alright.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(6) EAGLECREST 67, (11) SMOKY HILL 60
Score by quarters:
Smoky Hill 7 15 24 14 — 60
Eaglecrest 21 11 19 16 — 67
SMOKY HILL (60)
Rickey Mitchell 5 8-8 18, Brayden Maldonado 3 3-5 9, Jonathan Potts 3 0-0 7, Terrell Smith 1 2-4 4, Anthony Harris Jr. 4 2-2 10, Jayson Lewis 5 0-0 12. Totals 21 15-19 60.
LaDavian King 5 3-4 15, Peyton Taylor 1 5-9 7, Jayden Washington 5 0-0 12, Joshua Ray 2 1-2 5, Mostapha Elmoutaoukkil 6 3-4 19, DeAndre Brown 2 0-0 5, Garrett Barger 2 0-0 4. Totals 23 12-19 67.
3-point field goals — Smoky Hill (3): Jayson Lewis 2, Jonathan Potts. Eaglecrest (9): Mostapha Elmoutaoukkil 4, LaDavian King 2, Jayden Washington 2, DeAndre Brown. Total fouls — Smoky Hill 20, Eaglecrest 15. Fouled out — Smoky Hill: Brayden Maldonado. Eaglecrest: Elmoutaoukkil, Joshua Ray. Technical fouls — Eaglecrest: King.