BOSSIER CITY — Prep stars from around the state descended upon Bossier Parish Community College’s gymnasium Saturday afternoon for the annual Louisiana High School Coaches Association/Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association East-West All-Star Games, and the young men and women chosen to participate gave the patrons their money’s worth and then some.
North Caddo’s Jasmine Thomas and Robert Williams came away with their respective contests’ Most Valuable Player awards as the West teams pulled the sweep, with the girls winning 77-72 while the boys triumphed 106-102.
While the boys game was a typical run-and-gun all-star affair, with the two teams combining for over 200 points, the girls game featured fierce, physical play, punctuated with great defense down the stretch. The competition in both games was unusually intense for all-star festivities.
WEST GIRLS 77, EAST 72: Thomas, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette signee, scored nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter as the West prevailed in a chippy, physical contest. In the late going, with the game still very much in doubt, the two-time Class 2A state championship game made six free throws in the waning minutes iced the game for the West team.
“I was just concentrating on doing what I’ve done since I picked up a basketball,” said Thomas of her crucial free throws. “Those are the easy points, and you have to hit them.”
Jewel Sumner’s Bre’Ashlee Jones was named the East MVP after scoring 10 points and making her defensive presence felt all game.
“We were all out there to win, whether it was an all-star game or not,” said Jones, who has signed with McNeese State. “I was determined to do what I could to help my team. We came up short, but I felt like we played as hard as we could all the way.”
East coach Bonita Johnson of University was proud of her team despite the loss, pointing out that both squads played like it was a playoff game.
“You don’t see players get after it like that in these types of games,” said Johnson, who coached the East’s leading scorer — Chelsea Verrett with 12 points — at U-High. “It was physical and a little bit scrappy, but the great thing is (that) we all had fun and nobody got hurt.”
Mount Carmel Academy’s Paige Franckiewick hit three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points for the East, while Mansfield’s Keiona Ross lead the West with 12 points.
WEST BOYS 106, EAST 102: The West team stormed out to a 30-6 lead five minutes into the game. The East roared back to take the lead in the second half before Williams, a Texas A&M signee, took over.
Williams’ dunk on an alley-oop pass from Arcadia’s Travious Fielding with under a minute to play sealed the win for the West. He finished with a team-high 15 points.
“I kept looking up and seeing them creeping back into it, but we were playing our rotations,” said Williams of the mandatory five-man rotations in the first half and early in the second. “When I got back in, it was like, here we go, and I just tried to take over the game.”
Williams’ performance overshadowed U-High’s Jalen Johnson, who led all scorers with 31 points and was named the East’s MVP. Johnson, a three-time state champion with the Cubs, hit four 3-pointers and had some friendly banter with Williams during the closing moments.
“We’re both competitors doing what we do,” said Johnson, who has not yet made a decision on his college future. “I hope we get to meet each other again down the road.”
Lafayette Christian’s Jacob Ledoux, a McNeese State signee, also scored 15 points for the West, while Peabody’s Jacoby Ross poured in 23 points — including five 3-pointers — for the East.
East coach Chris Jennings of Jesuit also praised his team.
“These kids are special, and this event is special,” Jennings said. “You saw 30 kids out there (in each contest) playing their hearts out in an all-star game. You won’t always see that. We had exciting basketball, and we all had fun. Can’t ask for much more than that.”