They were touted as some of the best prep cagers in the area, and the 26 senior boys and 20 senior girls didn't disappoint when they took the court in the second annual Grizzly All-Star Games April 14 at the West Plains Civic Center.
Hosted by the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly basketball program and sponsored by Dr. Rick Walker of Southern Missouri Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Clinic of West Plains, the event featured some of the top senior boys and senior girls varsity basketball players in south-central Missouri and north-central Arkansas.
"This event is becoming very special," Grizzly Head Coach Brian Ostermann said. "In just the second year, we've already hit 1,000 fans for attendance. The kids really had a great time. We must thank all of the communities and fans for coming out to support these outstanding athletes."
The girls' game started things off, and was dominated by the Light Team coached by David Drake of Norwood and Mike Percival of the Class 2 State Champion Hartville Lady Eagles.
At halftime, the Light Team led 43-30 and finished the contest with a 90-72 victory. Ashlee Luko of Nixa, a member of the winning team, led all scorers with 17 points.
Most Outstanding Player of the event, however, went to fellow Light Team member Amber Cook of Seymour, who netted 16 points.
Others scoring for the Light Team were Brittany Smith, Hartville, 13; Ashlie Mayfield, Strafford, 12; Kandy York, Couch, and Caitlin Russell, Springfield Hillcrest, each with nine; Jessica Biekert, Hartville, seven; Charlee Smith, Norwood, four; and Heather Snow, Conway, three.
Leading scorer for the Dark Team, which was coached by West Plains' Scott Womack, was Megan James, Willow Springs, with 16. She was followed by Whitney Wright, West Plains, with 15; Stephanie Marhefka and Laiken Dotson, both of West Plains, with nine points each; Sammi Renfrow, West Plains, six; Katy Rowe, Alton, five; Kelsi Chowning, Mountain View-Birch Tree Liberty, four; Danielle Noah, Lutie, and Samantha Allred, Alton, each with three; and Courtney Hollingshad, Dora, two.
The boys contest was a closer game, with the Dark Team, coached by Roger Turner of Bakersfield, prevailing 92-89.
At halftime, the game appeared well in hand by the Dark Team, which led 58-45, but the Light Team battled back to take the lead.
A 3-point bucket by Logan Nutt of Jonesboro late in the game gave the Dark Team the lead for good.
Nutt was named the Most Outstanding player of the contest after racking up 25 points.
He was followed in scoring on the Dark Team by Joey Stefka, Izard County Consolidated, 10; Tyler Schmitt, West Plains, eight; Philip Cahoj, Koshkonong, and Zach Auala, West Plains, each with seven; Logan Simpson of Alton, James Morgan of Izard County and Eric Veatch of Thayer, each with six; Donald Bean and Ben Bird, both of Bakersfield, each with five; Lucas England, Koshkonong, three; and Chris Parks, Jonesboro, and Seth Roberts, Alton, each with two.
Tyler Oakley, Ozark, was the leading scorer on the Light Team, coached by Brad McGhee of Mountain View-Birch Tree Liberty, with 16 points. He was followed by Logan Norris of Summersville, Justin French of Liberty and Scott Myers of Willow Springs, each with 11; Devan Bestgen, Tipton, seven; Logan Walkup, Liberty, and Justin Brown, Mountain Grove, both with six; Drake Kerr, Summersville, five; Cody Honeycutt of Liberty, Kermit Smith of Ava and Sheldon Shaver of Norwood, each with four; and James Chadbourne, Lesterville, two.
Three-point shooting and dunking contests were held between games.
In the girls 3-point contest, Renfrow defeated Mayfield and Brittany Smith defeated Dotson in the first round, and then Smith defeated Renfrow in the championship.
In the boys 3-point contest, Smith defeated Roberts and Nutt defeated French in the first round, and then Smith defeated Nutt for the championship.
In the boys slam-dunk contest, seven contestants took center stage -- Walkup, Oakley, Kerr, Smith, Parks, Auala and Bird. Oakley, Kerr, Parks and Auala advanced to the semifinal round, and Oakley and Auala reached the finals, where Oakley finally took top honors.
Ostermann thanked all of the event's sponsors for their assistance and support, including title sponsor Dr. Rick Walker. "Rick and his wife, Melanie, provide great support to make this a first-class event," he said. "We also want to thank Subway, the UPS Store and Lightning Bowl for making this event possible for the kids. And, I'd like to thank my wife, Julie, who works very hard to organize the event. She does an outstanding job," Ostermann said.
"Our main goal is to have one final salute to the outstanding senior basketball players in our area," he continued. "Missouri State University-West Plains and the Grizzly Basketball program are proud to host and support this event."
For more information about the Grizzly All-Star Basketball Classic, call the Grizzly basketball office at 417-255-7993.