By Pete Chiodo
March 26, 2013 7:00 a.m. GUYS MILLS —
About three-quarters of Monday night’s Townville Lions Club/Windstream Communications All-Star boys basketball game at Maplewood High School was played like ... well, like an all-star game.
There were plenty of not-exactly-open 3s attempted; lots of fancy, but not often successful, drives to the hoop; and the defensive effort, had it been put forth in an actual varisty basketball game, would have had the coaches short-circuiting on the sidelines.
Yet a funny thing happened as the contest wound down and the score remained close: An actual game broke out.
As the players on both sides came face to face with a win-lose proposition, the competitive instincts of each athlete switched on and things got intense as the game streaked towards the finish.
Finally, the East team’s Tyler Bartlett sunk a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds left to break an 82-82 tie, and the West’s Zak Price had his desperation 3-point attempt bounce off the rim as the buzzer sounded, allowing the East to escape with an 84-82 victory.
“This was a fun game,” said East coach Jeremy Peterson, of Maplewood High School. “This is the first year I’ve done this where we’ve actually had a real defensive battle going on. They were in game mode. They were taking charges, they were attacking. They wanted to win this game.”
The East team, wearing orange, was ahead for most of the night, leading 41-35 at the half, and extending that lead to 69-59 midway through the second half.
However, the blue-clad West team, coached by Saegertown’s Greg Molnar, decided they weren’t going to take it laying down and was the first to kick the effort into high gear.
Price, Meadville’s point guard, was the catalyst for the West. He was rather quiet in the first half, scoring just one 3-pointer. But in the second, he came to life, scoring 23 points to finish the game with 26 markers total and the title of the West’s Most Valuable Player.
“I felt like I needed to step up,” said Price. “I felt like I let my team down in the first half,” he said. “I think that was a big problem why we lost.”
Price was originally listed to play for the East with the rest of his Meadville teammates, but offered to switch sides after the West had four no-shows from Titusville.
And those Meadville players on the East team ended up being Price’s biggest competition. In fact, the Bulldogs’ Trevor Clune was named the East’s MVP after scoring 21 points — nine in the first half and 12 in the second.
“Trevor’s really good, and I thought he controlled the game the whole time,” said Price.
Phil Mottillo, another Bulldog, added 15 points. And Noah Uplinger of Conneaut chipped in with a dozen points.
Price did what he could to get his team back in the game in the second. He knocked down a trey with 3:45 remaining to tie the game at 74-74, capping a 15-5 run by the West.
He added another trey shortly after that, which gave the West its only lead of the second half at 77-76.
The two sides battled back and fourth and the East eventually inched out to an 82-79 lead after a putback by Clune. But with 14.4 seconds left, Price bombed in his fifth 3-pointer of the game, striking from just inside the halfcourt line to knot the score at 82-82.
Bartlett, of Conneaut, drew the foul at the other end. He knocked down both.
Price had time for one last try. It was just short. So the East took the loss, despite Price’s 26 points, another solid 20-point game from Saegertown’s Dustin Pavlik, and a 10-point effort from Cambridge Springs’ Marcus Palmero.
“You know, when both teams were playing hard, that made it more fun, I think,” said Clune. “It was a fun game. Both teams played hard until the end. And to have both me and Zak get MVP, it feels good.”