"A great success" is how Brian Ostermann, head coach of the Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team, described the first ever Grizzly All-Star Games held April 22 at the West Plains Civic Center arena.
Hosted by the Grizzly basketball program and Dr. Rick Walker of Southern Missouri Orthopaedic Clinic, the event featured some of the top senior boys and the top senior girls from varsity high school teams in south-central Missouri and north-central Arkansas, as chosen by a panel of coaches during this past season.
"You never know how something will go off the first time you do it, but I think we certainly can say this was very successful, and no doubt we can build on it next year," Ostermann said. "When the word gets out that this is a first-class event and the players and fans had great fun, it will get even better."
KKDY announcer Harlan Hutchinson, who broadcast the games on KSPQ with Gary Lee of KUKU, agreed. "I thought it was a wonderful event. The basketball was very entertaining. The kids played hard and made it exciting. Those who attended got more than they paid for. And the kids enjoyed showcasing their talents in a great venue," he said. "I think this event will grow and get better every year. It has the chance in a few years time to become a marquee event."
The event, which was attended by approximately 500 fans, featured a girls' game, a 3-point shooting contest, a dunking contest and wrapped up with a boys' game.
The girls' "Light Team," coached by Hartville's Mike Percival, defeated the girls "Dark Team," coached by Ava's Brandy Harvill and Clint Gazette, 88-81. Most valuable player of the game was Destanie Gardner of Springfield Parkview, who scored 25 points, including five 3-pointers in a winning effort. She has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Tulsa on a full athletic scholarship.
Others scoring for the "Light Team" were Gabrielle Doherty, Hartville, and Tasha Lewis, Springfield Glendale, each with 16 points; Jenna Gray, Norwood, 13; Chelsea Sikes, Springfield Christian Schools, 11; Jennifer Glenn, Fordland, four; and Brittney Smith, Springfield Christian Schools, three.
Scoring for the "Dark Team" were Elizabeth Pitts, Willow Springs, 26; Tatum Hathcock, Ava, 16; Lindsey Sprague, Seymour, 14; Julie Frye, Gainesville, 11; Mandi Fore and Carlissa Turner, both of Bakersfield, each with five; and LaShonda Horton, Thayer, four.
In the boys' game, the "Light Team," coached by Eminence's Pete McBride, defeated the "Dark Team," coached by Thayer's Cliff Hawkins and Matt Pitts, 88-84. Most valuable player honors went to Matt Garner of Jonesboro, Ark., whose 34 points helped the "Dark Team" keep pace with their opponents. Garner is being recruited by Missouri State-West Plains and some schools in Arkansas. Others scoring for the "Dark Team" were Kyle Cooper, West Plains, 16; Brandon Voyles, Winona, 12; Josh Turner, Greene County Tech (Ark.), nine; Alex Wiggs, Alton, eight; Brett Ward, Thayer, four; and Layne Hawkins, Thayer, one.
Leading scorer for the winning "Light Team" was Trevor White, Salem, Mo., who had 25 points. He was followed by Kwamena Brace, Licking, with 21; Joe Bailey, Eminence, 14; Matthew Hutson, Liberty Faith Christians (Mo.), 11; Jason Patel, Houston, seven; Jake Fester, Rolla, six; and Paul Gregory, Eminence, and Davy McVicker, Summersville, each with two.
The boys put on show during the dunking contest, with the event coming down to "dunk off" between Kwamena Brace and Kyle Cooper. In the judges' final tally, however, Brace was chosen the winner. Winner of the boys' 3-point contest was Trevor White, and Beth Pitts won the girls 3-point shooting contest.
"I know the kids really enjoyed getting to know one another and really liked the opportunity to spend some time together at the Lightning Bowl," Ostermann said, explaining the local business hosted a pizza and bowling party for the players before the games. "The games were close, which always makes it more exciting. The 3-point contest and the slam dunk show were great fun for the fans. Overall, it was a great night of basketball, and that's a credit to each and every one of the all stars."
Missouri State-West Plains Athletic Director Dr. Herb Lunday added, "The All-Star games were superb. Excellent organization was apparent throughout the afternoon and evening, and the various activities flowed smoothly the entire time. The student-athletes played well, and the large crowd of parents, family and other basketball fans were obviously pleased. While the event involved athletics, the benefit to the university was considerable, as hundreds of individuals had the opportunity to observe or participate in a university-sponsored event."
Ostermann thanked Dr. Rick Walker and Southern Missouri Orthopaedic Clinic for sponsoring the event, Brad Mills and Lightning Bowl for hosting the pizza and bowling party, The West Plains Daily Quill for its help in promoting the event and putting together the event program, Ozarks Radio Network and KSPQ for broadcasting the games, and event coordinator Julie Ostermann "for her leadership, organization and preparation for this first-ever event."
He also issued thanks to the games' referees, Jeff Valade, Randy Ward and Greg Alford for the girls' game, and Terry McElyea, Gary McElyea and Bruce Gardman for the boys' game; and Gina's Gymnastics of Thayer and Preying Mantis Kung Fu of West Plains for providing halftime entertainment.
"The Grizzly All-Star event is a great opportunity not only for the players, coaches and fans, but also for the university, West Plains and all of the communities we serve," Ostermann said. "It wouldn't have been possible without the assistance and support of everyone involved, directly and indirectly, and we appreciate their efforts."