After dropping 37 points during his team’s 80-60 victory over Ouray High School on Feb. 5, Dove Creek High School shooting guard Kade Hankins exuded humility while crediting his teammates for his big night.
Everyone else in the gym, including Ouray superstar Jackson Leo, who averaged a league-best 18.3 points per game last season, was left wondering whether the Bulldogs’ sophomore has risen to the rank of top play in the San Juan Basin League.
“(Hankins) is just a great player overall,” Dove Creek junior Ryan Jarmon said. “He has played this game longer than I have and he knows exactly where to cut and how to communicate. He does a lot of things exactly how he should.”
While Hankins performance was brilliant in several aspects, most impressive was the sophomore’s ability to let the game come to him by passing to open teammates when scoring lanes closed and shooting efficiently from all areas of the floor.
“Last game, I (tried to do too much) and didn’t play very good,” Hankins explained. “I calmed down and hit teammates when they were open and hit Hayden (Gray) in the chest when his chest was showing to me. It always works when you do like that.”
After a back-and-forth opening quarter during which Hankins scored eight points and Dove Creek closed on a 14-0 run to take an 18-10 lead with eight minutes to play, the Bulldogs offense hit full stride during a second quarter that was highlighted by 14 points from Hankins.
Slicing to the basket for layups and pulling up for midrange jumpers in transition, Hankins proved to be unstoppable as exasperated Ouray head coach Adam Trujillo ran his hands through his hair and implored his players to stay in front of Dove Creek’s star.
“The key was my teammates setting me up good,” Hankins said. “They set picks and they came off screens. They set me up and I was getting shots inside.”
Complimenting Hankins on the offensive end during the second quarter were Gray, who pulled numerous rebounds and scored two big baskets, and Jarmon, who drained a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 43-22 halftime lead.
“It was supposed to be a play for (Hankins), but he was covered and I got it after my defender left me,” Jarmon explained. “I was just wide open and I went for it.”
Playing with confidence on both sides of the floor, Dove Creek continued to pour it on in the third quarter as junior Chorbin Cressler knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and Hankins drained a 3-pointer moments later to give Dove Creek a 59-25 lead.
Although Leo did his best to help his team climb back into the game by firing long 3-pointers and driving to the hoop with reckless abandon, the Ouray senior missed numerous shots while scoring just 12 points through the first three quarters.
“Our plan was really to just stay on the ground,” said Jarmon, when asked about his team’s approach to defending Leo. “He’ll hit one or two every now and then, but we wanted to stop him from getting inside and drawing fouls on us.”
With the ultimate result of the contest seemingly decided heading into the fourth quarter, Hankins knocked down three elbow jumpers before heading to the bench with 3:00 minutes left in the contest as the home crowd roared.
A five-point fourth quarter for Gray gave him 13 points in the contest, and although Leo went off 14 points in the final quarter, his late-game scoring outburst was not nearly enough as Dove Creek locked down a 20 point win.
In addition to Hankins’ and Gray’s double-digit scoring performances, the Bulldogs received offensive contributions from Cressler and junior Blaine Johnson, who both scored six points, and Jarmon, who netted six.
Ouray was led offensively by Leo, who scored 26 points, and D.C. Miller, who poured in 22 points on the evening.
Now 1-1 on the year, Dove Creek will do its best to rest up for an afternoon contest at home against Telluride on Feb. 6.