Everyone scored, everyone smiled and the Siskiyou boys amazingly maintained their dominance Friday night with a 10th straight victory in the 12th annual Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic at Kids Unlimited in Medford.
With 6-foot-5 St. Mary’s High junior Tre Foster leading the charge, the Siskiyous used a second-quarter surge to gain separation over the Rogues and held on for an 83-68 triumph in front of a packed house that was entertained by several high-flying dunks and the spirit of competition between Southern Oregon’s top players from all classifications.
Foster threw down three dunks, highlighted by an off-the-glass assist by Ashland senior KJ Pippa, and scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the first half to help the Siskiyous gain a stronghold on the contest.
Foster also finished with a game-high nine rebounds to earn Most Valuable Player honors in his first turn in the Mail Tribune’s annual game that showcases the top local basketball talents.
“I’ve never been in an All-Star game and it was a great experience with everyone, I loved it,” said Foster. “I just came out here and tried to do my thing. It was fun, I liked playing with these guys a lot. It was an awesome team to have on my side.”
It was clear early on that Foster and Pippa had developed a rapport, with the duo often looking to set up the other. A few back-door lobs went awry before Pippa finally took another tactic and used the backboard to set up his teammate.
“We practiced that in practice for like 10 minutes straight,” said Pippa, who was one of three returners to the Classic. “We were just trying to get it perfect. The first two were not too good but we finally got it.”
“I didn’t have any of that on my team this year so it felt good to give it to him,” added the 6-1 guard, who finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists. “I liked being able to just throw it up and let him go get it.”
It was a record turnout for voting for the starters in the girls and boys games for the event. There were 32,943 votes cast, obliterating the 2015 record of 23,670. Eagle Point senior Hayden Neyt became the first to eclipse 6,000 votes, reeling in 6,744 to set a record for overall individual and for the individual boy in voting. The old record was 5,502 by Cascade Christian’s David Sellers in 2014.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” said Neyt. “I told people, ‘Hey, I’m in this, you can vote for me if you want.’ But I didn’t expect 6,000. That was way more votes than I would’ve expected.”
It proved to be a double-edged sword for Neyt, who appreciated the love but also was burdened by living up to such lofty vote totals. He went scoreless in the first half for the Rogues but finally converted a driving shot in the third quarter to finish with two points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
“I felt like I didn’t play as good as I could’ve because that was in the back of my mind the entire time, like, ‘Oh, you got 6,000 votes, you need to do better,’” said Neyt. “I still had a great time; this was incredible. Just playing with the best of the valley and having fun was worth it all.”
That was the feeling across the board, with teammates and opponents relishing their opportunity in the spotlight in the benefit for Kids Unlimited.
Butte Falls/Crater Lake Charter freshman Devon Malcolm proved to be one of the more entertaining figures of the night, attacking the basket with bad intentions despite his youth and 6-2 frame. The Class 2A standout finished with eight points for the Rogues and joined in the dunk show with a first-quarter hammer of his own.
“It was definitely difficult, if I’m going to be honest, but it was a lot of fun,” said Malcolm, who previously had come and watched a couple Mail Tribune All-Star events. “Everyone was just really great to me. They all came out and were like, ‘He’s a freshman?’ in the practice, and they all hyped me up so I just came out and tried to put on a show.”
“I came out here knowing I can compete with them, 2A regardless,” he added. “It was definitely fun coming out here playing with some of these 6A kids.”
The Siskiyous went on a 9-0 run toward the end of the second quarter to build a 41-31 cushion at halftime, with North Medford senior Jaray Thomas scoring five of his 14 points in that span and setting up Phoenix junior Ethan Hutsell with a nice lob basket. Thomas also finished with five rebounds, while Hutsell pulled in six rebounds to go with his 12 points.
The Siskiyous pushed their lead to 61-44 in the fourth quarter but the Rogues were able to trim their deficit to 68-60 with about four minutes to play after getting hot from the field.
North Medford junior Jett Carpenter avenged a rim-check on his first dunk attempt in the first half with a no-doubt jam to kickstart a surge that saw him score six of his nine points. Grants Pass senior Randy Clark and Cascade Christian sophomore Donminic Lewis also had 3-pointers in that rally for the Rogues.
After that, however, it was nearly all Siskiyous as Thomas and Hutsell took over, and Crater senior Nate Horton was able to answer a pair of 3-pointers by junior teammate Jayden Vranes with a couple of his own. Grants Pass senior Taylor Anderson, who had eight points and four assists, provided the final dagger with a 3-pointer off a Horton assist to cap the scoring. Horton finished with six points, four rebounds and three assists.
Clark finished with a team-high 14 points to go with five rebounds for the Rogues, who won the first two years of the All-Star game but have been shutout ever since despite constantly rotating rosters chosen at random. South Medford junior Sherman Hunter added 12 points, while Lewis had seven points and five boards, Hidden Valley senior Joe Blanton added six points and seven rebounds and North Valley junior Tanner Lauby pulled in six boards.
Prospect senior Jordan Royce (five rebounds, two points) and Rogue Valley Adventist junior Isaiah Christensen (four points, two rebounds) held their own for the 1A contingent.
On this night, however, it was Foster who was able to walk away with top honors and a trophy for all his high-flying antics.
“It’s a blessing, it really means a lot to me to win this (MVP trophy) as a junior,” said Foster, who was also the Siskiyous’ leading vote-getter at 5,898. “I’ll for sure be back next year.”
ROGUES (68): Randy Clark 14, Sherman Hunter 12, Jett Carpenter 9, Devon Malcolm 8, Donminic Lewis 7, Joe Blanton 6, Jayden Vranes 6, Hayden Neyt 2, Tanner Lauby 2, Jordan Royce 2. Totals: 29-97 3-6 68.
SISKIYOUS (83): Tre Foster 18, Jaray Thomas 14, Ethan Hutsell 12, KJ Pippa 9, Taylor Anderson 8, Keegan Losinski 6, Nate Horton 6, Isaiah Christensen 4, Bryce Bruner 2, Aiden Norris 2. Totals: 37-83 0-0 83.
3-point goals — Rogues 7-44 (Hunter 2, Clark 2, Vranes 2, Lewis 1), Siskiyous 9-27 (Anderson 2, Thomas 2, Horton 2, Foster 2, Pippa 1).