LEXINGTON – A basketball game broke out Thursday night at Lexington during the 37th News Journal All-Star Basketball Classic.
All-star games can be sloppy affairs with a lot of me-first basketball being played. That wasn’t the case in a 94-89 North victory over the South.
“The fun thing about tonight was it felt like a real game. This was a good show, but this was also a good basketball game,” said Mount Gilead’s Tom Cooper, coach of the South. “Both teams wanted to win, and there was more defense than is typically played in these games.”
Plymouth’s Troy Keene, coach of the North, said his squad was going to approach it like a real game and that they would play to win.
“My kids really played well tonight and got after it for an all-star game,” Keene said. “They really came out and competed at the defensive end, and I enjoyed it because it was not sloppy.”
With 15 All-Ohioans on the court, there was plenty of talent on the floor. Unlike many of these kinds of games, the talent meshed well together. There were 39 combined assists in the contest as 18 players had at least one.
“On our team, we were all real competitive and I think that competitive edge took over,” North guard Trey Smith of Ashland said, who celebrated his 18th birthday Thursday.
The North took a 14-6 lead in the first five minutes, but the South answered with a 13-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 19-14 lead.
Enter game MVP Tyson Beebe of Plymouth. He scored more than 1,600 points in his All-Ohio career, and he sparked the North by hitting four 3-pointers and an 18-footer in the span of four minutes to put his team ahead for good.
“I really thought the difference in the game was when we had that little section where we didn’t defend well and Beebe got hot,” Cooper said.
Beebe’s flourish from the field staked the North to a 41-32 lead. The South tied all night to get even or better but never managed to get it closer than a possession.
The South cut it to two points in the first 2:22 of the second half, but the North pushed the lead back to 10 points three minutes later. With just under 10 minutes to go, it was again a two-point game, but the North quickly stretched it back to eight.
A Xavier Harris fastbreak layup with 3:12 left sliced it to 90-89, but the South wouldn’t score again. The North got back-to-back buckets from Mansfield Senior’s Naradain James with just over two minutes left, and that would be it.
The South went 0-for-10 from the field with three turnovers, while the North finished with two missed field goals, three missed free throws and a turnover.
“We just answered every one of their runs with one of our own,” Keene said. “It started with good defensive stops.”
Mount Gilead’s Chris Godfrey was the only South player to make a 3-pointer in the second half as they went 1-for-20 from the arc but 17 of 29 inside it for the final 20 minutes. For the game, they were 6 of 36 on 3-pointers. The North was 17 of 56 from 3-points and 18 of 49 inside it.
“We lose by five and go 1-for-20 (from 3-point range) in the second half, and that did us in,” Cooper said,
The North also took advantage of 22 South turnovers which turned into 20 easy points.
“We just needed to push the ball more and stop making turnovers,” South forward Bradly Garverick of Ontario said.
Besides Beebe’s 19 points, the North got 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks from Plymouth teammate Tyrell Edmiston and 13 points and 8 boards from James. Smith had four assists and three steals.
For the South, Ashland’s Brett Vipperman put up 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Ashland teammate Isaac White added 10 points and five assists, and Harris had 10 points and seven rebounds. Mansfield Senior’s Asante Wilder handed out five assists, and Clear Fork’s Griffen Robinette hauled in nine rebounds.
Before the All-Star game, the Richland County Bears played the Ashland County Dragons in a Special Olympics showcase contest. The Bears won 59-25 as J.R. Smith of the Bears put up 16 points on 8 of 13 shooting and 14 rebounds plus four assists as he tried to get his other teammates in the scoring column, especially down the stretch.
At halftime of the first game, Smith joined Edmiston, Garverick, Vipperman and James in a first-ever slam dunk contest that was won by Edmiston.
“It was pretty cool, and I had a lot of fun,” Smith said of starring in both the Special Olympics game and the dunk contest.