COLUMBIA — Both the boys' and girls' Northeast Missouri all-star basketball teams were eliminated in the first round of the First Annual Missouri Challenge today at the Columbia College's Southwell Complex. The boys' team lost 107-100 against the Southwest squad and the girls lost 72-54 to Kansas City.
The games may be considered all-star games, but they were nothing like the usual no-defense and selfish offense all-star games tend to be. Instead players were diving for loose balls, pressing, running set plays their coaches were shouting out and a Northeast player, Skyler Tolson, even had to get stitches on his chin. The games were competitive, but both teams struggled to come back from huge half-time deficits.
There were some festivities too as coach Norm Stewart threw up the ceremonial opening tip. Stewart said he really enjoys watching the students play against each other and he had fun throwing the ball up, even laughing as one player played the tip like it was the real thing.
Despite the fun and games at the start, the boys' team struggled to get much going. It went down 18 points at half time and was only able to get as close as seven points in the second half. However, after a timeout halfway through the second half, it was able to put quite a scare into the Southwest all-stars.
“We just talked about pride, these kids aren’t going to be able to play college basketball if they don’t play defense, and we weren’t doing a very good job closing out. In the second half we were and we picked up the tempo,” Northeast coach Ty Hames said.
The second-half surge included a 19-point effort from Glasgow’s Jay Lee, the sixth all-time leading scorer in Missouri. Rock Bridge’s Tolson also added 15 points, but it wasn’t enough.
“They were lights out. Offensively the perimeter was their strength. They took good shots and, when they had the shot, they just knocked them down. That was what was able to stretch the lead out for them,” Hames said about the Southwest team.
The Northeast squad also struggled with foul trouble to its big men. First team All-State player Jordan Dressler picked up his fourth foul early in the second half and was accompanied by teammate Briton Rudd, who fouled out with six minutes left in the game. Hames said the foul trouble to his big men really hurt the team on rebounds, and gave the other team a lot of second-chance points.
In the girls' game, the Northeast squad struggled with turnovers, however coach Heather Helsel said the biggest problem was just putting up points.
“In the first half, we weren’t aggressive and attacking the rim, and bringing it down and scoring, but we didn’t finish,” Missouri’s Gatorade player of the year Katherine Harry said.
The tournament was a great experience for many of the players.
“It was a ton of fun, I got to meet a lot of people, and it was fun to play with new girls. I got to hang out with eight other girls that I wouldn’t normally get to,” Harry said.
“It was an awesome experience, it was basically like practicing for a college team. You know, you always hear about these guys, and it’s nice to get a chance to know them,” said Tolson.
The tournament will host the semi-finals and finals Saturday starting at 9:30 a.m. and tipping off the last game at 7:30 p.m at Columbia College’s Southwell Complex.