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Hoops Rivalry

Season Promises Renewed Sparks Between Patriots and Angels

Story and photos by Reid Neureiter

Special to the GPHN

GW shooting guard and small forward Devon Jones dribbles the ball up-court against Regis Jesuit.

The boys basketball teams of East and George Washington high schools have a long and historic rivalry.

Denver East has nine Colorado state basketball titles, the latest coming in 2014 when the Angels were led by two-time Colorado Mr. Basketball, Dominque Collier. Collier is currently in his senior year playing point guard for the University of Colorado Buffalos in Boulder.

George Washington, for its part, owns five Colorado state boys championship titles. And GW was the home to Colorado’s greatest schoolboy baller, Chauncey Billups.

Billups, known as the “King of Park Hill,” was a three-time Colorado Mr. Basketball who went on to star for the University of Colorado, where he was an All-American. Billups then played 17 seasons in the NBA, including for the Boston Celtics, the Denver Nuggets and the Detroit Pistons. With the Pistons, Billups won an NBA Championship and he was named NBA Finals MVP. It was Billups who, way back in 1994, led the George Washington Patriots to their last Colorado state title.

East High junior guard Kwame Marble dribbles up-court against a Lakewood defender.

Last season, both East and George Washington had highly ranked teams headed into the 2017 state playoffs. George Washington beat East in a thrilling 99 to 96 regular season finale at Manual High’s Thunderdome, claiming the Denver Public Schools city title for the second year in a row. George Washington ended the season as State 5A runner up, losing 53-47 to an Eaglecrest squad that had knocked East out in the playoff quarterfinals.

This 2017-2018 season promises renewed sparks in the historic rivalry. According to East’s legendary head coach, Rudy Cary, the reason for the Patriots’ resurgence is simple.

Legendary East coach Rudy Cary oversees warm-ups before East’s Jan. 8 victory over Lakewood.

“They’ve got a good group of kids who came in, and [GW Coach] Reggie [Hammons] has done a great job with them,” said Cary just minutes before the Angels took on an overmatched Lakewood squad at East’s home gym on Jan. 8.

Cary has nine state titles to his name (six with the Angels) and is the state 5A career leader in wins (approaching 800). He was blunt about the Patriots’ overall strength this year. “They are a better team than we are at this point.”

This comment comes despite the early season rankings from the MaxPreps organization that put East as No. 5 in the Colorado 5A classification, with GW being ranked ninth. Asked to name the leaders of East’s 2018 Angel’s squad, Cary identified senior guard Daylen Kountz and junior guard Kwane Marble.

Kountz will follow fellow Angel Collier to play college ball in Boulder, having made a verbal commitment to CU in September. In the seemingly effortless 80-68 East victory over Lakewood, Kountz had 27 points to lead the Angels, while Marble had 17 on 5 of 13 shooting. But beyond Kountz and Marble, East lacks depth. Kountz and Marble were the only Angels in double figures.

Senior point guard/shooting guard Jon’ll Fugett fights for a rebound in GW’s big win over Regis Jesuit

George Washington, for its part, lacks neither depth, nor range, nor height. In a Jan. 10 away victory against fourth-ranked Regis Jesuit, George Washington had five players in double figures, including senior shooting guard Devon Jones, who shot five of seven from three-point range, scoring 17 points overall.

As a team, the Patriots shot 52 percent from three-point range, tallying 12 threes over the course of a 79-69 victory that they led from start to finish, in the face of a spirited Regis home crowd.

George Washington also had the benefit of big man D’Auntray Pierce, a 6’7” senior captain who was named Player of the Game against Regis for his contribution of 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks. By contrast, East has no starter taller than the 6’4” Kountz.

GW Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Kevin Maguire extended credit for George Washington’s recent success to Coach Hammons.

GW Coach Reginald Hammons Jr. instructs players during timeout during game against 4th ranked Regis Jesuit.

“Bringing in a quality coach like Reggie Hammons, who played for George Washington, has made all the difference,” said McGuire. The principal also credited Hammons for instilling a sense of unselfishness in the GW squad, describing the Patriots as a “complete team” with “everyone contributing.”

George Washington and East will conclude their regular seasons with a rivalry game at the Manual High School Thunderdome on Feb. 17. Both teams are well equipped to go deep into the state playoffs.

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