Crater’s Alana Harding will play for the Rogues on Saturday. - Jamie Lusch

Area's best prep for new event

For most, the prep basketball season came to an end last Saturday night.

But for a handful of local competitors, the inaugural Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic offers one more chance to hit the hardwood this school year.

The All-Star Classic, which features seniors and underclassmen from all classifications that were all-conference selections, will take place Saturday starting at 4 p.m. at South Medford High School.

The girls game begins at 6 p.m. and the boys tip off at 8 p.m. A skills contest, featuring a 3-point shootout and dribbling and shooting exhibition, will start the festivities at 4 p.m.

Admission for an all-day pass is $8 for adults and $4 for students, while children ages 12 and under are free of charge. All proceeds go to Kids Unlimited, a non-profit west Medford youth organization that runs after-school academic and extracurricular programs.

The exhibition game gives area competitors from Class 6A through 1A a chance to play with or against each other for the first time.

"I'm really excited for it," said Alana Harding, a 6-foot-2 senior post at Crater. "It's so hard not playing basketball right now.

"Really, I'm glad I get to play with girls from North (Medford) and Eagle Point. That will be fun."

The two nine-person teams, the Rogues and the Siskiyous, will feature competitors from as far away as Cave Junction, Prospect and Butte Falls.

Coaching the boys teams will be longtime Southern Oregon University men's basketball coach Brian McDermott and Will Young, a former SOU player. Current SOU women's player Emily Brookins will coach one girls team, while Craig Contreras and Chris Parnell will head up the other.

The contest will also air on tape-delay on March 26 on Southern Oregon Education Service District Television, Channel 16 on Charter Cable and Channel 98 on Ashland TV. Longtime high school radio personalities Joe Brett and Pete Belcastro will be in charge of the TV play-by-play.

The exhibition contest is the brainchild of Manny Crump, who, with cooperation from Kids Unlimited executive director Tom Cole and the Mail Tribune, finalized planning for the event one month ago.

Crump envisioned a chance for players from smaller schools to test their skills against competitors from larger classifications, and vice versa.

"I like that part of it," said Rogue team member Joey Knighton, a senior point guard at Class 1A Butte Falls. "It'll be interesting to get that opportunity to go against these kids of a larger caliber school. I get to test my skill level against some of these guys to see where I'm at."

Others look forward to getting one last chance at the prep level. Of the 35 players set to participate, 22 are seniors.

One of those seniors, Danny Berger, who is fresh off leading North Medford to a fifth-place trophy at the 6A state tournament, will play alongside Black Tornado teammate Jordan Ellis for the final time on the Rogue team.

"It'll be fun to see how kids from other smaller schools match up against 6A players," said Berger, a 6-6 wing. "Plus, it'll be exciting because I get to put the jersey on one more time.

"I think something like this could stick around for a while. It's good for the community."

Matt Lipski, a 6-9 senior post with Ashland, revels in the opportunity to cap his basketball career alongside Grizzlies teammate Dillon Thigpen. Both Ashland standouts will suit up for the Siskiyous.

"I'm really looking forward to playing one more game with Dillon," said Lipski, who will attend the University of Montana on a football scholarship next season. "It'll definitely be great to play with some of these other guys and get a chance to play one more game down here.

"It should be a good, relaxed atmosphere where everyone can just have fun with it."

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail

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