For many student-athletes the end of their senior season is a bitter-sweet experience. On Thursday, 37 local basketball players got a final chance to display their skills on the court at the 2nd annual Central Valley Senior Showcase.
Players representing 10 different area high schools — Turlock, Pitman, Turlock Christian, Denair, Delhi, Hilmar, Ceres, Central Valley, Oakdale and Hughson —were chosen to make up all-star teams to play for fun and a chance to win scholarships.
The Pitman High gym was filled close to capacity for both the girls and boys all-star matchups.
Pitman High's Dustin Curtiss was the head coach for the girls National team, led by two of his players from the regular season in Alize Tyler and Katie Willett. The girls National team squeaked out a win against the American side, coached by Turlock High's Mark Musselman, 32-31.
“It was fun to be a part of the game. The girls all did a great job,” said Musselman.
Ceres High's Nicole Bates finished with a game-high 10 points and was the team's Most Valuable Player after showing consistency in a very defensive game.
Mikayla Mabie of Central Valley won the Coach's Choice Award for the National side.
“It was a great time getting to work with girls that I read about. All the girls were great and I really enjoyed the whole experience of it,” said Curtiss.
Turlock Christian's Alexis Smith knocked in four and Pitman's Alize Tyler added four points. Katie Willett finished with a bucket.
“As for the game, when we got the tempo up we had a lot of success. The girls wanted to get out and run and take quick shots and we caught fire there near the end of the first half,” said Curtiss. “We never really got in a good rhythm in the second half but we made some plays in the end to hang on. I was glad it was a close game and hopefully the crowd enjoyed the game as much as I did.”
On the American side, TC's Cassie Balswick, who was also named the team's MVP, tacked on a team-high nine points. Micaela Maaske of Oakdale, who won the three-point shootout on the girls side, finished with four points and was awarded the Coach's Choice Award.
Mika Jimenez of Pitman had five, Morgan Nunes of Turlock added three and Mikayla Yagi had three, Meghan Hopkins had two and Faith Pattee added a point to round-out the scoring for the night.
After the girls game, four players — two girls and two boys — competed in a shootout for a scholarship award.
Maaske topped TC's Meghan Mark and secured her spot into the final where she faced Turlock's Habib Velasquez, who defeated Pitman's Jando Diaz.
In the final, Maaske drained eight after hitting the money ball that is worth twice as much. Velasquez started off on fire and went up to seven before finally going up by one, then he drained the money ball to win it 11-8. Both were awarded scholarships.
The boys game ended with a high-scoring and slam-dunking good time, but in the end it was RJ Henderson of Denair and his National team that defeated the American side, 100-85.
Jando Diaz was named the American Coach's Choice Award recipient after scoring 17 points and Hughson's Wyatt Michael won the MVP award after scoring a team-high 19 points.
For the winning side, Pitman's Micah Millentree had a game-high 22 points as he finished at the basket with multiple dunks throughout the 20 minute halves and was awarded the team's MVP.
“Throughout the season, all these guys are opponents but tonight you get to see them all come together and play a fun exhibition game. It's an awesome tradition that I hope continues,” said National boys coach Garett Elliott. “This is an awesome way to send these guys off to the next step in their lives.”
Isaac Starks of Denair finished with 15 points and the Coach's Choice Award.
The National led by as many as 29 and the American cut the lead by 11 at one point.
Will Hilgen of Turlock finished with 16 points. Velasquez added 13. Oscar Moreno finished with 11 and Gurman Takhar had 11. Ricky Heidelbach finished with 10.
“They've worked hard for four years so to me it's even a way of just saying thank you to these guys,” said Elliott. “It's an opportunity for parents to see their kids suit up one more time and it's an opportunity for guys that won't be playing at the next level to play in one more high school game.”