(Photo by David Jenkins, staff)
The Black River Coliseum in Poplar Bluff was the setting for the area's best basketball players on Friday night.
Picking up where the "Area's Best" all-star game left off, HoopStars Midwest sponsored this year's all-star game along with Three Rivers Community College.
In an exciting, action-packed game, the West All-Stars defeated the East All-Stars 123-120. In the first ever girls game, which replaced the coaches game, the West All-Stars also prevailed over the East, winning 80-74.
Dexter's Brett Hale won the 3-point shootout, canning 15 treys in a 45-second span. Jackson's Brad Hilbert took second with 11 trifectas.
Van Buren's Bliss Roberson won the girls 3-point shootout.
The Caruthersville duo of Norman Prather and Erick Hubbard put on a show in the slam dunk contest. Prather won the event with a pair of self-thrown ally oops.
"I think it was definitely a success," said Dennis Griffin, executive director of HoopStars Midwest. "I think it went great down here. It exceeded my expectations a little bit. Overall it was about what I expected as far as the fan base with it being our first year. Hopefully next year we can have a lot more people and we need to try to get a few more girls involved. But other than that I think everything was great."
Unlike in the past couple of years, every player that was invited attended the festival with the exception of South Iron's Brad Savage.
Plus with the game being held at the coliseum, and Dexter resident Lloyd Hyten's entertaining public address announcing, the game had more of a big-time atmosphere than in year's past.
"I think this is something that we can continue to build on," said West coach John David Pattillo. "I hope they'll continue to play it here. Another great place would be over at the Show Me Center. This was a lot of fun and it's good for our community I know."
The game was played with the same rules as the McDonald's All-American game - with 12-minute quarters and a 35-second shot clock.
The East seemed to be in control of the game late in the fourth quarter, holding a 110-103 lead with about four minutes left.
But the West fought back behind a barrage of 3-pointers from Jamie Waddell (Poplar Bluff H.S.), Hale and Shannon Wright (Dexter).
Hale's trey tied the game at 117-117 with 1:38 left. Nineteen seconds later Wright gave the West the lead for good with a 3-pointer.
Ronnie Webb (Poplar Bluff) and Adam Crader (Doniphan) sank free throws to extend the lead to 123-117. The East's Jonathan Ressel hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left for the final margin.
"We tried to divide it up the best way we could," said Pattillo. "We rotated some guys in late that we thought would give us a chance to win. They all played really well and we were really excited to coach them. Coach Kruse and I had a lot of fun. We got to scrimmage a couple of nights with them and had a really good time. Anytime it gets down late and it's close then you want to win. Our goal coming in as coaches was to make sure we get everybody a chance to play and we did that. The kids had a lot of fun."
Sean Gibson (Richland) led all scorers with 30 points, including the only slam dunk in the game off a nice feed from Sikeston's Tony Jones.
The West used its size well, with the 6-11 Crader and the 6-5 Gibson. The West was able to get to the free throw line 37 times, compared to the East's 14.
"You get to see a lot of good players play and that's pretty fun - just being a part of it is an honor," said Hale. "At first it was for fun, but when that game's on the line you know your competitive fire kicks in and you want to win the game."
The Bootheel Conference represented the East team well. South Pemiscot's Robert Farmer led the team with 18 points, followed by Prather's 17 points and Hubbard's 16.
"This is a fun game to let these guys showcase their talent and skills and run up and down the court a little bit," said East coach Kevin Williams. "We wanted everybody to get an equal amount of playing time and just have fun. Of course you want to win but it wasn't that big of a deal. We had a great turnout and I think it's good for the kids. It gives them something to shoot for at the end of the year."
The West came out of the gates on fire, taking a 16-4 lead behind a pair of Hale 3-pointers. But the East responded with a 12-0 run to tie the game at 16-16 after a Farmer trifecta.
The West regrouped behind the inside presence of Gibson, who scored 11 points in the first quarter. The West led 37-32 after one quarter.
The West never lost the lead in the second quarter, extending the margin to as much as 68-57 after a Crader free throw. The West settled for a 68-59 edge at the half.
Both teams exchanged leads throughout the third quarter, but the West still led 95-94 heading into the final frame.
There, the East led throughout most of the quarter. A Nick Steimle (Scott City) 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining gave the East a 117-114 lead, but the West scored nine straight points to seal the win.
"I really appreciate the fan support and all the sponsors we got in the area," said Griffin. "Everything went real well. The kids played hard and they had a lot of fun it looked like."
Hale finished with 14 points, including 4-of-6 from downtown. Wright, Seth Martin (Eminence) and Crader each finished with 12 points. Crader and Gibson each pulled down 12 rebounds and Wright had four steals.
Jason Jenkins (Twin Rivers) also reached double figures with 10 points. Jones led the West in assists with seven.
For the East, Steimle scored 13 and NMCC's Byron Minner added 12. Prather finished with seven rebounds and five assists.
"It was fun playing with Brett and Shannon and the rest because we've been rivals for a long time," said Crader, who is bound for Southeast Missouri State University. "We wanted to win pretty bad - that was one of our goals. We got two out of three with the game and (the 3-point shootout). It's a great activity to have. It gets us out here to compete and have one last hoo-rah before we had to college. I wish we could've had a few more dunks to go with it."
Everybody that played got in the scoring column with the exception of Notre Dame's Mark Rubel and Doniphan's W.D. Kennon.
In the girls game, the West's Bliss Roberson (Van Buren) led all scorers with 27 points. Amy Shepard (Doniphan) had 17 points, nine rebounds and Brandi Moore (Naylor) had 13 points, nine rebounds.
The East was led by Nicole Wylie's (Kennett) 19 points, including five treys. NMCC's Ashley Barnes had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Francis Pratt had 13 points, 10 rebounds and Rebecca Rone had 12 points, six rebounds.