By Randy Whalen
For the Bugle
Prep Shootout All-Star Game
About midway through the second half of the Voyager Media Boys Basketball All-Star Shootout Bolingbrook’s Nana Akenten came to the scorers table and asked what the record for points was.
Well, fresh off helping to lead the Raiders to third place in the Class 3A State Tournament the day before, Anenten scored 22 points to help make sure the team scoring record was shattered.
His North group, however, fell short in a up-and-down fun-filled final game for the all senior all-star teams on Sunday, March 19 at the University of St. Francis in Joliet.
Joliet West’s Trevian Bell scored a team-high 22 points and wowed the crowd with a series of slams as the South squad pulled away in the final few minutes for a 134-122 victory. Bell’s Joliet West teammate — Tabyous Casterberry tied him for team-high honors with 22 points, as the 256 points easily broke the combined points record, which was set last year in a 120-119 win by Team Gregory – when the format was a little different.
Niles West’s Aaron Flowers scored a game-high 27 points for the North team, which tied Bolingbrook graduate (‘13) and current SMU Mustang Ben Moore for the the second most points ever scored in the nine years of the boys all-star game.
“This was fun to come out and play with these guys,” Flowers said. “We were getting up and dunking it and having a lot of fun. I had never saw any of them play and I came in with no information, I was just excited to play.”
Both teams also surpassed the previous single team high for points, which was 121 by the North squad in 2013 game.
That was no surprise as the combined rosters included six members of the Class 3A/4A Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-Staters.
Akenten led the way as the lone first teamer, while Bell, Benet’s Jack Nolan and Notre Dame’s Matt Stritzel were third teamers and Lemont’s PJ Pipes and Joliet Central’s Jose Grubbs were on the fourth team.
“I was just playing to play and show the crowd what I’ve got,” Bell said of receiving the MVP award. “The experience was all cool and I just wanted to enjoy the last game and make the most of it. You don’t always get an opportunity to dunk like that in a high school game, so it was a surreal feeling.”
A feel-good award was presented before the game.
The Jeremy Izzo Character Award, which is named after the former Joliet Catholic Academy boys basketball coach, who passed away in 2010. This years award was presented to Lockport’s Matt Smietanski.
“I had no idea,” Smietanski said of receiving the award. “Coach [Brett] Hespell told me I was nominated and knowing [Izzo’s] story, I was just excited for that. I tried to do my best to turn things around at Lockport and give an example of what to be.”
Smietanski scored nine points in the game, including a couple of dunks, to help the South team to the win. Some of his first memories of watching high school basketball were going to the WJOL Thanksgiving Tournament at USF, where he watched former Lockport player and Voyager Media All-Star Karrington Ward – who is currently in the NBA D League, play.
“Some of my first times watching [high school] basketball were here,” Smietanski said. “So it’s pretty neat to end my career in this sport here.”
Plainfield South’s Devin Smith (19 points) along with Kameron Williams (14 points) and Sedrick Brooks (2 points) from Plainfield Central represented the Plainfield schools.
Jason Bingham (16 points), along with Grubbs (9 points) and Jomare McNair (2 points) helped lead Joliet Central to a 23-6 record and a regional title before losing to Joliet West 64-62 in the sectional semifinals.
But the crosstown rivalry was put aside in the all-star game as Bingham teamed up with Bell on an ally-opp slam, among other highlights.
“It was just like we were all on the same team,” Bingham said of joining forces with players that were rivals during the season. “It felt good to be out there playing with everyone. It was fun to go out and play and not worry about defense.”
There certainly was not any much defense being played. The South team trailed for the final time at 28-27 and then Bell had a pair of dunks in a 10-2 burst to help it take the lead. Leading 67-61, the South all-stars ended the half on a 12-2 burst, capped off on a 3-pointer by Bingham at the buzzer, to go up 79-63 at halftime.
A 19-9 spurt, however, by the North team helped it tie the score at 117-117 on a slam by Akenten with 4:01 to play in the game.
But that also meant that both teams substituted — which they did every four minutes, for the final time. Casterberry then scored six points and Williams had four in as the South team went on a 12-0 run to lead 129-117 with just over a minute to play in the game.
Donavan Finch (7 points) and Pete Ragen (2 points) represented Joliet Catholic. Minooka’s Antonio Milazzo (6 points) and Downers Grove North’s Ryan Pustelnik.
Bolingbrook’s Cameron Harris (16 points) joined Akenten in the game for the North squad. They were fresh off being part of the Raider team which defeated Fremd 70-66 the day before to finish the season with a school-best 30-2 record and capture third place in Class 4A for the second time in three years.
“We love basketball, so when you get called to do something like this in front of the people and in with guys from other teams, it is something fun to do,” Akenten said. “We just wanted to get some highlights.”
Chris Heinichen (12 points), Jeameril Wilson (9 points), and Stritzel (8 points) represented Notre Dame.
“There were a lot of good players out here,” Stritzel said.
Benet had a pair of players — Justin Enochs (9 points) along with Nolan (3 points).
“This was pretty cool to put the Benet jersey on one more time and play with the best players around,” Nolan said. “It is a unique opportunity to be able to come out and play with some of the best players.”
Pipes, who became the leading scorer in Lemont history and helped the Indians give Bolingbrook a battle in the regional title game, finished with 13 points.
“It is fun coming here and connecting with all of them,” Pipes said. “We are all friends and its is fun to have all of in one gym and it is kind of like a little get together before we all leave for college.”
Pipes played for the final time against Bell, who will be his teammate next seaosn at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Downers Grove South’s Dylan Kaczmarek (3 points) rounded out the North team.