GRANVILLE — For the second year in a row, the area’s best senior basketball players gathered at Putnam County High School to play one more game.
In the second annual Illinois Valley All Star Games on Saturday, the South girls cruised to a 78-57 victory in the opener, while the North boys squad followed with a 113-105 win.
“I thought everything went real well,” said PC boys coach Josh Nauman, who founded the event last year. “We seemed to have a great crowd and the kids all seemed to have a good time. That’s the main thing is the kids come out there and have fun and get to play one more game.”
North 113, South 105
North coach Mike Kilmartin of St. Bede has coached a lot of great basketball teams in his long career.
Perhaps none better than the starting lineup he sent out Saturday.
Kilmartin’s North squad started La Salle-Peru’s Jens Soderholm, St. Bede’s Joe Pyszka, Hall’s Brett Fanning, Mendota’s Trae Blumhorst and Chillicothe IVC’s Austin Johnson.
“It’s probably the team I coached,” Kilmartin said. “I don’t know what team I would have had that was better than that.”
The North’s starting five put on a good show from the start.
Behind Soderholm — the 2012-13 NewsTribune Boys Basketball Player of the Year — along with NT First-Team All-Area selections Pyszka, Fanning and Blumhorst, the North jumped out to a 20-7 lead.
“It’s easier,” Soderholm said about playing with so many talented players. “It opens up the game for you. Not everyone is zeroing in on you. Everybody can score — that’s why they’re here — so it’s a fun time.
“(The first lineup was) definitely the best lineup we threw at them. We were scoring while we had it in there. It worked for us.”
The starters came out up 20-7 and the South rallied behind NT First-Team All-Area pick Brady Sanders of Fieldcrest.
The South squad briefly held a one-point lead, but the North responded to take a 59-49 halftime lead and led the rest of the way.
“They were a lot bigger than us,” said Nauman, who coached the South. “I thought we played pretty well. Our kids came out and played hard. There was a little more defense than last year’s game (a 150-123 South win). There wasn’t much of that last year. They were a good team.”
Soderholm led all scorers with 22 points to go along with eight rebounds. Pyszka had 17 points and 10 boards, while Fanning and Blumhorst each scored 16.
Fieldcrest’s Kyle Crowley had 16 points to lead area players on the South team.
“It was fun,” Soderholm said. “It’s an honor to be chosen for it. We play against these guys all year so it’s fun coming together and bonding with your enemies who are now your teammates. They’re a lot nicer than you once thought they were.”
South 78, North 57
North coach Tom McGunnigal of St. Bede wants a third game against South coach Mike Cooper of Ottawa.
Last season, McGunnigal’s North squad beat Cooper’s South team 80-74, but the roles were reversed Saturday as Cooper’s team earned the victory.
“Rubber match next year — me and Coop — for all the marbles,” McGunnigal said with a laugh.
Cooper’s team tied the series behind another big all-star performance by an Ottawa player.
A year after Ottawa’s Allie Miceli put on a show by dropping in 34 points, Ottawa’s Jaleesa Kindred -a NT Second-Team All-Area player - led all scorers with 24 points to go with six rebounds.
“I wasn’t expecting to (be high scorer), but that’s a great memory to have. I was a little rusty at practice (Thrusday), but then today I just came out and went with it,” said Kindred, who made her first seven shots.
Behind Kindred’s hot start, the South squad grabbed a 28-14 lead after the first 10 minutes and it was never close after that.
“It was a great experience,” Kindred said. “Only having one practice, we learned to play with girls we’ve never met before. All around, they were great girls to play with.”
The South squad led 49-27 at halftime.
“I just thought they gelled really well together,” Cooper said. “They weren’t selfish, they passed the ball, got it inside and did the things they needed to be successful.
“I thought it was a lot of fun. The No. 1 thing about all-star games is just to go out, have fun and play.”
St. Bede’s Mo Dean, a NT First-Team All-Area selection, paced the North team with 21 points and nine rebounds. Princeton’s Makenzey Wilson added 13 points.
“Coop’s girls came out and shot really well. It was an impressive display by them, there’s no doubt about it,” McGunnigal said. “But we had fun and that’s the important thing. The girls were having a good time on the bench and they had fun playing with each other out on the floor.”
n Note: Fanning won the boys 3-point contest by making 12-of-15, while Kindred won the girls contest by hitting 7-of-15. Fanning then won the overall contest by making 13-of-15.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.