DENVER -- The hard work through the years playing for D’Evelyn’s boys basketball program has paid off for senior Brian Smith.
D’Evelyn coach Troy Pachner says Smith has grow into one of the Jaguars’ key components heading into the program’s third straight trip to the Class 4A’s Great Eight.
“Brian is probably our hardest working kid throughout his whole career here,” Pachner said after his No. 1-seeded Jaguars defeated No. 4 Mead 69-46 Saturday night to advance to the state quarterfinals. “He is a guy who wasn’t even on our ‘A’ program in junior high. Now look at him, he is one of the better players in the state.”
Smith sure looked like one of the premier 3-point shooters in the state against the Mavericks (16-9). The senior buried six 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 26 points.
“We just try to get good shots,” Smith said. “Coach Pachner also talks about sharing the basketball and get good looks. When you are open you just have to hit them.”
The biggest 3-pointer Smith hit was right at the end of the first half. Mead had cut D’Evelyn’s lead to 32-24 just before halftime, but the Jaguars milked the time off the clock and Smith hit his third 3-pointer of the half with two seconds left.
“We’ve run those plays in practice, end of quarter plays and last-second plays,” Smith said. “I mentality prepared to get that shot off. It was uplifting for the team and really helped our run in the second half.”
D’Evelyn (20-5) kept the momentum going to start the third quarter with a 10-0 run, building its lead to 21 points.
“Their crowd was really into it. It made it difficult for us,” said Mead junior Blake Goodwin, who led the Mavericks with a dozen points in the loss. “They made shots and that is what good teams do.”
D’Evelyn junior Grant Witherspoon made his fair share of shots. Witherspoon poured in 22 points. Senior Ty McGee added a dozen points for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars’ defense was a big catalyst in the victory. Mead had issues handling D’Evelyn’s full-court pressure and trapping defense at times.
“D’Evelyn is real good in the full-court, trapping and things like that,” Mead coach Darin Reese said. “There were times we handled it really well, but the few times we didn’t they turned those directly into points. That is what really hurt us.”
What has hurt D’Evelyn the past two years is back-to-back losses in the state quarterfinals. The Jaguars were edged by Sierra in the round of eight in 2012 and fell short against Broomfield same position of the state tournament in 2011.
“We need to get over that hump,” D’Evelyn coach Troy Pachner said. “This will be our third straight year in the Elite 8. I think it’s our fifth or sixth time since we’ve been 4A. It’s time to ascend to that next step.”
Next up for the Jaguars will be No. 2 seed Sand Creek (20-5). The Scorpions knocked off Denver West 67-45 in their Sweet 16 game Saturday.
“It’s a match up as we looked at the season that we knew could happen,” Pachner said. “It will be a great game. We like our chances.”
The biggest task for D’Evelyn’s defense will be containing senior guard Dylan Clark, who will take his basketball talents to the Air Force Academy next season.
The Great 8 for 4A girls and boys state tournaments will be played Saturday, March 8, at the Denver Coliseum.