Highlights from the Howard County boys and girls all star games and festivities held at Long Reach High School on Friday, March 17. (Brent Kennedy/BSMG)
In front of a packed crowd Friday night at Long Reach High School, Howard County's senior basketball stars put on one final show.
The girls kicked things off with a game decided in the final seconds, as Marriotts Ridge's Caroline Blalock made a layup and ensuing steal to secure a 48-47 victory for the West squad over the East.
The second game of the evening saw the East boys squad pull away in the second half for a 90-67 victory over the West boys in another all-Howard County showdown. Then to wrap up the night, the Maryland All-Stars got a game-high 42 points from Glenelg Country's Jalen Gabidon to defeat the Howard County All-Stars, 116-99.
In addition to the games, there were also a handful of skills competitions.
Atholton's Sofia Harrison made 13 threes in 45 seconds to win the girls 3-point shooting competition. Oakland Mills' Brian Wheelock was announced as the winner of the boys dunk competition. And Glenelg's James Kittleman was the winner of an abbreviated boys 3-point shooting competition by making six shots in 30 seconds.
It was the first time that the boys and girls basketball all-star games were held together.
Caroline Blalock scored only four points on Friday night, but she delivered the biggest basket of the night. The Mustang's senior guard took a pass from Glenelg's Grace Butera (8 points) and dribbled along the baseline before hitting a contested layup to give the West squad a one-point lead with five seconds left.
Then as the East squad was trying to advance the ball up court for a final shot, Blalock swooped in for a steal to secure the win.
"It was crazy because I always joke around that I can't make my layups, but I was able to do it there," she said afterward. "It was a great way to end my season and my basketball career."
Atholton's Ryan Jones added a team-high 10 points for the West squad in the winning effort. On the other side, Howard's Emileigh Scott led the way for the East with eight points. Reservoir's duo of Haley Tiller and Cassidy Pham added six points apiece.
The game was relatively close the entire way, with the lead changing hands seven times in the second half leading up to the late-game heroics.
The boys basketball teams in Howard County have had an all-star event for the past several years, but this was the first time that the girls have joined in the festivities. Reservoir coach Deb Taylor did a lot of the legwork in terms of getting things together and the players were appreciative for the opportunity.
"I know the Reservoir coach set this whole thing up for us and that was amazing, especially because girls basketball hasn't had one of these before," Blalock said. "It was great to play one last time since a lot of us aren't moving on with basketball and to do it in front of all the coaches and players was definitely special."
The second game of the night was again a battle between East and West, this time for the boys. The match-up ended up being a little more lopsided, as Oakland Mills' Brian Wheelock (20 points) and Howard's Tanner Scaife (19) led the way to a 90-67 victory for the East squad.
The East team was ahead 34-24 at the half and then steadily increased its lead up to the final 23-point margin. Wilde Lake's Nick David (15 points) and Tyrell Barnes (12 points on four threes) also had standout efforts.
For the West group, Marriotts Ridge's Marcus Lunsford was the leading scorer with 18 points and Brent Wade of Glenelg was right behind him with 16.
The final game pitted Team Maryland, which was made up of players from Chapelgate, Glenelg Country and Mervo, against a team of 10 Howard County seniors from various schools.
Gabbidon, a senior guard who is headed to play collegiately at Yale University, stole the show in the finale right from the very beginning. He scored nine of his team's first 13 points and simply never slowed down.
By the end of the game he had scored 42 points, throwing down nine dunks and hitting three 3-pointers along the way.
"It was so much fun. I know some of the guys from Reservoir, we play up at the Community Center together so it was fun to get out here and compete against them and the other players," Gabbidon said. "It was nice to get the opportunity to show off some highlight plays, all the things I'm capable of, which is something you don't always get to do during the season. And there were some battles going on too, so that added something extra to it."
While Gabbidon's performance, along with a 19-point effort from Chapelgate's Jake Tringali, carried the Maryland squad to a fairly convincing victory, there were still plenty of highlight performances from the Howard County team. Reservoir's Judge Payne was right there at the top of the list.
Payne put on a 3-point shooting barrage, hitting nine from beyond the arc on the evening on his way to a team-high 33 points. He called it something he will never forget.
"This might just be the most memorable game I will ever have in my life. Just being out there against those caliber of players, in front of a huge crowd, it was amazing to be able to play like that," Payne said. "I was definitely feeling it."
Atholton's Jacob Waterworth also put on a performance to remember from 3-point range, hitting six threes of his own. During one seven-minute stretch in the second half, Payne and Waterworth combined to hit seven of eight 3-point attempts to pull the Howard County team all the way back to within two points, 73-71, after trailing by double digits.
"I think we were feeding off each other, feeding off the crowd and just showing what we can do," Payne said. "You could feel the energy from the crowd as Jake started hitting and then I made a few shots and there was some back-and-forth with their players too .. just a lot of fun."
In the end, however, Gabbidon was just too much. He responded to the push from Payne and Waterworth by putting together a 13-3 run on his own to officially put the game out of reach. Howard County never got closer than 10 points during the final 10 minutes.
GIRLS BOX SCORE:
West 48, East 47
West: Ryan Jones 10 (Atholton), Grace Butera 8 (Glenelg), Francesca Vanegas 7 (Atholton), Sarah Blalock 6 (Marriotts Ridge), Caroline Blalock 4 (Marriotts Ridge), Ella Looney 4 (Atholton), Sofia Harrison 3 (Atholton), Caitlin Ohnmacht 2 (Marriotts Ridge), Shane Devine 2 (Mt. Hebron), Amanda Rickett 2 (Chapelgate).
East: Emileigh Scott 8 (Howard), Haley Tiller 6 (Reservoir), Cassidy Pham 6 (Reservoir), Greta Schuster 4 (Resrvoir), Alex Rivera-Martinez 4 (Long Reach), Sam Lewis 4 (Howard), Emily Rowell 4 (Reservoir), Danielle Abel 3 (Hammond), Gabrielle Abel 3 (Hammond), Devon Williams 3 (Long Reach), Kyrah Pacheco 2 (Oakland Mills).