After two straight years falling a couple points short, the West squad came out Friday in the third annual Howard County boys basketball all-star game at Howard Community College and broke through in convincing fashion.
Led by Marriotts Ridge’s RJ Bryant, who was named MVP, and Glenelg Country’s Chancellor Barnard, the West squad jumped ahead early and never looked back on its way to a 126-91 victory.
“Coach Mike (Coughlan) felt that this was the year the West was going to win and when we got to practice earlier in the week, I was definitely thinking, ‘man this is a real good squad’,” said Bryant, who scored 21 points. “It’s the third year … I think we all wanted to win that first one for the West.”
Barnard ended up with 19 points, while Marriotts Ridge’s Robert Davis and Chapelgate’s Chris Grandy and Terrell Willis all scored in double figures as well.
Hammond’s Dontae Ross, Atholton’s Michael Bernetti and Oakland Mills’ Deshawn Willis all scored in double figures to lead the East.
While the final score was lopsided, there were really no losers as players on both teams got to showcase their skills in front of a near-packed gym. With the bleachers at HCC nearly completely full, the event enjoyed its largest fan turnout in the event’s history.
“We’re just trying to build on everything each year and we owe thanks to Body Armor (Sports Drink) for sponsoring the event and the players for spreading the word and getting a big crowd in here,” said HCC men’s basketball coach Mike Smelkinson, who also serves as the all-star game organizer. “When we started this, the point of it was to put on display Howard County’s best and I’d say it’s become a really successful and fun event.”
From a player’s perspective, Bryant said the game served as a great capper to the season.
“Howard County didn't get to make it to Comcast Center this year, so I feel like this game kind of brought everybody back together and was a chance to show the talent of the county this year,” Bryant said.
It was Bryant that helped the West break things open early. During one four-minute stretch he hit three 3-pointers and a lay-up to help extended the team’s lead above 20.
“I was loose, but it’s still a basketball game and I came out here trying to do my best against some of the best players in the county,” Bryant said.
Barnard also got going early with four thunderous slam dunks. By halftime, the West lead was 63-37.
During the intermission, five players — Barnard, Aaron McDonald, Deshawn Willis, Khari Jackson and Dontae Ross — participated in a dunk contest. Barnard and McDonald ended up being declared co-winners after completing two dunks apiece. Willis made the finals and finished third.
The West squad continued pulling away over the final 20 minutes and, by game’s end, all 14 players on the roster has scored at least one basket.