Licking County’s boys nearly pulled off a comeback on Sunday, while the girls couldn’t quite hold their lead.
After losing both All-star games in 2012 at Tri-Valley, visiting Muskingum Valley reversed its fortunes with a sweep in Jimmy Allen Gymnasium. It held on in the boys game for a 93-89 win, and rallied in the girls’ contest to prevail 86-82 in overtime.
The teams combined for a barrage of 26 3-pointers in the boys game with 13 each, including 10 in the opening 6:30 of the game. Newark’s Brandon Jefferson and Zanesville’s Marcus Johnson made three each early on, but Licking broke out to a 22-12 lead on a 3-pointer and drive to the basket by Licking Valley’s Chris Flanagan.
Seventeen of the 3s came in a first half that saw Muskingum rally to take a 50-48 lead, despite 13 points by Licking Heights’ John Righter and 10 more by Flanagan.
Tri-Valley’s Ethan Slaboden had 14 first-half points, and Johnson added 13.
Muskingum stormed ahead 72-56 midway through the second half, but Licking wasn’t finished. Righter hit two 3s and Newark’s Jalen Dartis another in a 17-2 run that propelled Licking into a 81-79 lead with four minutes left that was capped Northridge’s Hayden Warner on a pullup jumper. But Slaboden scored on a pair of drives, and New Lexington’s Alex Bryant made a 3 and two foul shots as Muskingum pulled away again.
Slaboden finished with 24 points, Johnson 20 and Bryant 13 for Muskingum, which made 10-of-13 foul shots compared to just 4-of-10 for Licking.
Righter drained five 3s en route to 21 points for Licking, while Flanagan added 12. Jefferson and Heath’s Ethan Langley added nine each, with Langley throwing down a late-game dunk.
“I thought when we came back, we were going to win, but (Muskingum) hit some big shots and made some good passes,” Righter said. “Our first five did well, then we seemed to fall off and had to keep coming back. It was still a lot of fun to be out there and to be a part of it.”
GIRLS Muskingum Valley 86, Licking County 82, OT
The host team led 50-39 early in the second half and 68-61 with six minutes left, but couldn’t put away the persistent visitors.
Licking bolted ahead 20-7 on a 3-pointer by Johnstown’s Marissa Sheets but saw Muskingum climb to within 37-35 by halftime.
Heath’s Taya Croom and Newark’s Paige Cashin each had a pair of baskets during an 8-0 second-half run that built Licking’s 11-point lead. Then, Utica’s Taylor Dush drove for a pair of scores and Watkins Memorial’s Lou Nickel for another that seemed to have Licking in control late.
But Maysville’s Madison Smith hit a 3 to give Muskingum its first lead of the game at 71-68, and teammate Kelsie Kirkbride made a couple of clutch baskets in the final 40 seconds to force overtime.
Crooksville’s Brianna Finck made 3-of-4 foul shots in the final 12 seconds to clinch the win.
Smith and West Muskingum’s Dakota McKenzie had 13 points each, Kirkbride 11 and John Glenn’s Mariah Carson 10 for Muskingum, which made a creditable 24-of-33 foul shots and eight 3s, compared to just 15-of-33 at the line and five 3s for Licking.
Granville’s Brittany Atkinson and Dush, who faced each other in the finals of the 3-point shootout, led Licking with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
Sheets added 10, while Cashin and Nickel scored nine each.
“I was so nervous; there was so much pressure,” Dush said. “I figured Brittany would beat me. She’s so good.”
Dush gave Muskingum credit for coming up with big plays.
“Their 3-pointers were big, and they made a few nice passes,” she said. “But it was so fun. I knew everyone on our team.”