DENVER — Jon'il Fugett hit a floater with 3.5 seconds to play, and George Washington boys basketball emerged with a dramatic win in the Class 5A Great 8 on Saturday.
Fugett, a senior, drove to his right down the lane, and let a shot go in the final moments. It danced upon the rim, then dropped. Winner. George Washington would move on with a 42-41 win over Smoky Hill, and return to the Final 4.
"That's what I go to practice for everyday — test those shots," Fugett said. "It was good defense, on both sides. It was just a better shot. Feels great."
Fugett's final shot came in heavy traffic.
"It was just a spot I had to get it to," Fugett said. "I knew I wasn't going to be able to drop it in all net, so I just had to touch it on the rim. Once it hit the rim, I was happy. I couldn't really see it after it left my hands. Once I hit it twice, I knew it was going in."
George Washington advanced to last year's state title game. Coach Reggie Hammons said that experience helped on Saturday.
"With Jon'il being in there last year, and the experience being there, he stepped up and hit that shot," Hammons said.
The two teams battled all night. Smoky Hill edged out in front with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter, going up 25-20, and later 28-22, before George Washington close the frame with nine unanswered points.
Included were seven straight points from Shawn'Trell White, a 6-foot-1 senior guard for the Patriots. He had a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left in the third quarter, and then had a layup at the buzzer after stealing Smoky Hill's last possession. That gave the Patriots a 31-28 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
But Smoky was unfazed.
Kenny Foster, the Buffs' leading scorer, hit a 3-pointer as the fourth quarter opened to tie the game at 31.
Smoky Hill and Foster then turned a parade to the line, as well as a few turnovers, into a 37-31 advantage with 6:17 to play.
Again, George Washington battled back. This time, it was senior Jon'in Fugett leading the charge. He hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 37-34, and later had a spinning layup that gave his team a 38-37 lead with 3:53 to go.
"That's how we've been the whole year: battling back," Hammons said. "Get down, and fight our way back."
By the time 1:29 remained, George Washington led 40-39, and had a chance to extend that lead, but missed three consecutive free throws. Smoky Hill tied the game at 40 with just over a minute to play, and then took a 41-40 lead when Quentin Rock hit 1-of-2 free throws with 32 seconds to play.
The teams struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the fast-pace game in the first half. Smoky Hill shot just 22 percent — and George Washington wasn't much better at 30 percent from the field, including 1-of-9 from 3-point.
Mo Diallo led George Washington with 12 points. Fugett had nine, and White added 7.
Rock led Smoky Hill with 10 points. Foster had nine, and Eric Williams scored eight.
George Washington entered the tournament as one of 5A's hottest teams, winning 13-straight games.
In three seasons under coach Anthony Hardin, Smoky Hill has made remarkable strides. In Hardin's first season, Smoky Hill was 4-19.