Smith blog: Doherty dunk contest brings us back to the fun of high school hoops

 

The end of any high school sports season is tough.

It can only end in two ways: pure elation from winning a state title, or immeasurable heartbreak from coming up just short.

This past weekend I had the unfortunate experience of seeing more of the latter. Although it’s my job as a journalist to remain impartial, it’s never easy to see a local team in tears on the court after a loss - especially when they’ve come so far.

But Wednesday made up for it.

We put away our sadness from another season come and gone and got back to what high school basketball is all about - fun.

I had the pleasure of judging the High School Dunk Contest held at Doherty on Wednesday, and it was the perfect winter sendoff.

(For me at least. Thursday the 5A CSML and 4A PPAC All-Stars will square off in the true winter hoops finale, but I won’t be there - follow Vinny Benedetto, @VBenedetto, for updates.)

I’m constantly amazed by the amount of talent we have in the Pikes Peak region. A follower on twitter explained that he wished his area could put on a dunk contest, but didn’t have enough athletes in the area that could do it - yet nearly a dozen Colorado Springs ballers lined up Wednesday to not only show off the fact that they could dunk - but they did it in stellar fashion.

Leaping over classmates, windmills, fancy footwork, double dunks, alley-oops, elbow hangs and backscratchers - they did it all.

As many of you know I moved here from south-central Pennsylvania, and until my first boys’ basketball game in Colorado Springs (Rampart vs. Vista Ridge) I had never seen a dunk in a live high school game. Since that day I’ve seen about 20 in live games, and coming from a girl who is 5-foot-2 and would probably need stilts and a trampoline to even touch the rim - I’m impressed every time.

It was tough to be a judge because I wanted to give everyone a perfect score (que the participation trophy jokes now) because there’s no way I could ever do any of that. But the two finalists, Lewis-Palmer’s Tre McCullough and Doherty’s Kyrele Benford, were seriously remarkable.

McCullough scored a perfect 10 from all five judges after leaping over two classmates in the finals, and Benford followed with a double-dunk with windmills - which also scored a perfect 50.

In the tiebreaker McCullough attempted an elbow hang (with some assistance - he pulled himself up onto the rim), and Benford tried an alley-oop off a kick-flip from a classmate, but couldn’t get it to go in. Against the clock he shot a short 3-pointer for an alley-oop to himself.

McCullough won the tiebreaker by one point. (Don’t hate the judge, hate the game. I didn't cast the deciding vote - BTW)

But seriously, the athleticism, and the competitive fire these guys bring every day - it’s truly impressive. And I hope you don’t ever lose it.

You make my job easy. Thanks for another fun night hanging out in a high school gym.

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