Locals compete in all-star showcase
Andrews – Some did it for fun, some did it for one last shot of glory.
But there was no denying the central theme of the 1A West/Midwest All-Star Games, which took place Saturday at Andrews High School: camaraderie.
A mere week after the state championship games, athletes selected from multiple 1A schools donned their jerseys one more time for a full day of practice, a banquet and of course, the games themselves.
The contests were played in two, 20-minute halves, with each athlete being allotted six personal fouls, instead of the customary five.
Tipping off the action in the Ken Solesbee Athletic Center was the girls game. Players familiar to Cherokee Scout readers included Alexis Finlay (Hiwassee Dam), Brittin Johnson (Murphy) and Hailey Thompson (Murphy).
Down 32-18 after the first half, the West made a push late in the game. Nantahala’s Hope Ward helped cut the deficit to 54-48 with 2:13 remaining, on a pair of back-to-back 3’s. However, the Midwest stayed the course, playing keep-away for the final two minutes and Thompson’s bucket with 25 seconds left in the contest was not enough to complete the comeback bid.
“It was really cool to get selected to the All-Star team,” Thompson said. “I was playing with girls I’ve played with my whole life, so that was a cool experience. They’re all great players, so we had a great time. It was a lot of fun.”
Thompson had four points, seven rebounds and one steal in the game. Johnson totaled two points, six rebounds and one steal, while Finlay finished off her high school career with two points, five rebounds, one steal and one assist.
“I was super excited to play in this, because after our last game, I was super sad, because I thought it was my last game ever,” Finlay said. “All the girls were so nice and we got along really well. I thought we were going to come back at the end.”
Swain’s Alissa Smith led the Western girls with a 12-point night. Mitchell’s Zoe Cloer scored a Midwest-best 16 points and earned MVP honors as a result.
What was developing into a game of “anything you can do, I can do better” was suddenly halted.
A shootout between the West/Midwest boys was starting to get one-sided. With 7:20 left in the game, the Midwest held a 76-57 lead. A timeout was called and subs scurried onto the court, before the Andrews High athletic director grabbed the public address microphone and ordered an immediate evacuation of the gym.
Even though the game was indoors, Mother Nature continued her fickle trend of weather and somehow managed to dump a tornado warning on Cherokee County during the festivities. As dime-size hail fell outside the Andrews gym, officials and coaches alike agreed to call the game early.
Players like C.J. Anderson (Hiwassee Dam), Curt Brown (Murphy), Hagan Newton (Murphy) and Danny Tucker (Hiwassee Dam) were able to represent their schools one final time on the hardwood. Anderson recorded three rebounds, one assist and one steal in the game, Brown had two rebounds, Newton nabbed one board and Tucker pulled down four rebounds and hit a 3-point shot in the first half.
“I like the team we played with. Half the team could dunk and the other half could hit 3-point shots,” Tucker said of his experience. “It was really fun to play with people that are competitive, but this wasn’t too competitive; it was fun.”
The Midwest offense was led by Lincoln Charter’s Jehlon Johnson, who compiled 16 points in the game.