SINCLAIRVILLE - Before each tipoff of the Chautauqua County Exceptional Seniors basketball games on Wednesday night, there wasn't the familiar huddle around coaches to discuss strategy or chalk up one last play. And there were definitely no pregame routines run by unsmiling and nervous players feeling the pressure to perform.
Nor should there have been. It was, after all, an all-star game.
No, what mattered to the 26 senior girls and the 30 senior boys wasn't who won, but instead who could make the prettiest behind-the-back pass on the fast break, who could make the longest 3-point shot and who could tally a pair of points with a rim-rattling slam dunk.
Above, Jamestown’s Adam Cecchini of the Red Team puts up a shot during the Chautauqua County Exceptional Seniors basketball games at Cassadaga Valley on Wednesday night. Below, Nicole Greene of the Red Team shoots over Katie Snow of the Blue Team during the girls game. Cecchini and Green were named the most valuable players. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
And, of course, it was about enjoying what would be the final basketball game of their high school careers.
"I'll tell you what," boys Blue team coach Eric Johengen said, "the kids were supporting each other throughout the whole event. The teams practiced together before tonight's game, and I think that develops a lot of camaraderie amongst not only your own team but the opposing team as well. This is just a great way to end (their high school careers)."
The girls opened the festivities and the Red team, which was blessed with a much taller roster and included players like Nicole Greene of Jamestown, who was named the most valuable player after netting a game-high 20 points, and Southwestern's towering trio of Jennie Thies, Leslie Bamburoski and Megan Wuebbolt (each of whom is either 6-feet tall or very close to the mark), rolled to an 82-47 victory over the Blue.
In the boy's game, MVP Adam Cecchini's 24 points weren't enough to lead his squad to victory as the Blue team scored 52 points in the opening half and 54 in the second - the Red could muster just 43 in the final half - to clinch the 106-98 victory.
The boys played a fast-paced, up-and-down the court style that saw nine lead changes and eight ties in the first half alone. After heading into the locker room at the break trailing by three, 55-52, the Blue team was finally able to pull away five minutes into the second half.
Gage Bird knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing to break a 62-62 tie, and then Devon Austin of Brocton followed his teammate on the ensuing offensive possession with another trey, this one off the glass, from nearly the same spot to push the advantage to six.
Five minutes later, Dunkirk's Kevin Holmes, who scored 14 points, and Austin once again hit back-to-back triples and then Maple Grove's Joey Frazier scored on a fast break moments later to make the lead 14, 92-78.
"What happened was that the (Red team) was taking a lot of outside shots that they didn't knock down for a while and we were able to come down and convert," Johengen said of his team's victory. "That was a stretch where I though we played very well."
Along with Holmes' 14 points, Southwestern's Jake Swan scored 16, Ryan Nord of Falconer had 11 and Jason McMahon of Chautauqua Lake chipped in with nine in the victory.
Following Cecchini's 24, Jamestown teammate Kevin Diaz drilled a pair of 3-pointers on his way to scoring 12 points while Dustin Schauman of Cassadaga Valley and Adam Walker of Clymer added seven apiece.
"It was like an NBA game out there," Johengen said of the high-scoring game. "Both teams shot the ball very well and all the kids had a lot of fun. That's what it's all about."
In the girls showdown the game remained tight for the first 10 minutes of the half before Greene began to establish her dominance down low. Beginning at the 10-minute mark she scored eight straight points - six of which came after hauling down an offensive rebound - to help balloon what had been a slim, five-point advantage into a more comfortable 19-point lead, 27-8, with less than six minutes to go.
"We had a nice spurt there (midway through the period)," Red team coach Brent Deuink said. "It was relatively close and then Nicole took over the game. She was the MVP and it was well deserved. She's a wonderful player with long arms and soft hands, and what's more she's just a wonderful kid."
The Red squad took a 40-15 lead at half and then, despite 11 second-half points by Cassadaga Valley's Taylor Storer (she scored a team-high 13) held on for the victory.
After the game, Deuink was already looking forward to next year's contest.
"I've done this for seven or eight years now and it's always a highlight," he said. "I look forward to it and it's even nicer now that my daughter (Emily Deuink) coaches with me. We had a great group of girls."
NOTES: At halftime a boys and girls 3-point contest was held and Sherman's Elle Reed defended her title by hitting 7 of 15 shots in the championship round. ... Eighth-grader Carter Davidson of Chautauqua Lake defeated eight other participants in the boys competition by connecting on 11 3s in the final round to clinch the title.
Cecchini 11 0 24, Lindstrom 4 0 8, KWalker 3 0 8, Diaz 4 2 12, Kelley 1 2 4, Schauman 3 0 7, Marsh 2 0 4, AWalker 3 0 7, Pfeiffer 2 1 3, Lubi 2 0 4, White 1 0 2, Nobles 1 0 3, Lenart 2 1 5, Smith 1 0 3, Woodard 1 0 2. Totals 41 6 98.
Liddell 3 0 8, Nord 5 0 11, Grace 2 0 6, Frazier 5 0 11, McMahon 4 0 9, Alonge 2 2 7, Holmes 5 2 14, Donaldson 2 0 4, Mleczko 3 0 6, Swan 7 0 16, Austin 2 0 5, Bird 2 0 5, Stott 1 0 3, North 0 1 1. Totals 43 5 106.
3-point goals: Cecchini 2, Walker 2, Diaz 2, Schauman, AWalker, Nobles, Smith, Liddell 2, Nord, Grace 2, Frazier, McMahon, Alonge, Holmes 2, Swan 2, Austin, Bird, Stott.
Red55 43 - 98
Blue52 54 - 106
Marsh 2 0 4, Carlson 3 1 7, Greene 10 0 20, Sheldon 2 0 4, Sands 2 0 4, KEinink 1 0 2, Winterburn 0 1 1, Wuebbolt 3 1 7, Bamburoski 3 0 7, Thies 1 0 2, JEinink 3 0 9, Eggleston 1 0 2, Foy 4 0 9. Totals 35 2 82.
Dragget 1 0 2, Storer 3 4 13, Swanson 5 0 10, Scott 1 0 2, Snow 1 0 2, Moore 1 0 3, Hamilton 2 0 6, Mathews 1 0 2, Smith 2 0 5, Gilray 1 0 2. Totals 18 4 47.
3-point goals: Marsh, Bamburoski, JEinink 3, Foy, Storer 3, Moore, Smith.
Red40 42 - 82
Blue15 32 - 47