JOHNSTOWN - A select group of the area's top basketball players brought down the curtain on their high school careers Saturday afternoon in the fifth annual Ameriserv Senior Hoops Showcase at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Sports Center.
In the opening game of the doubleheader, the North girls all-star squad took control of the contest in the middle two periods and went on to a 71-59 victory over the South.
The boys all-stars followed with a thriller that saw the South battle back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime and subsequently dominate the extra session en route to a 105-94 triumph over the North.
The North girls led by just two at the end of the first quarter but broke the game open in the second to go up 36-24 at the break, and that advantage grew to as many as 24 in the second half.
"We ran our offense, took good percentage shots and were able to get some fast break points," said North coach Jodi Hillegass of Westmont Hilltop.
Westmont's Gina Rievel collected her second all-star MVP award in as many weeks as the Waynesburg recruit followed up her outstanding effort in last week's Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic with a game-high 20 points for the North.
"This is exciting," Rievel said. "I never expected to be able to win two MVP's
"I give all the credit to Coach Hillegass. Our team just had great chemistry, and everybody played hard."
"Gina plays her heart out every game," Hillegass said. "It was very special to coach her in her last high school game."
The North also got major contributions from a pair of Forest Hills teammates. Fresh off their state tournament playoff run, the Rangers' Jess DiFlauro tallied 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Becky Bard added 11 points.
"It was different playing with girls we were used to playing against," DiFlauro said. "I liked when Becky [Bard] was in; she helped keep me calm because I know I can always kick it out to her if I'm not open.
"This was a nice way to end the season."
Bard also enjoyed her Ameriserv Showcase experience.
"We were more relaxed in the second half, and just went out and had a lot of fun. Getting the win was a great way to finish the season off."
Shade's Becca Muha scored a team-leading 12 for the South.
"We focused on having a good time and getting everyone enough playing time," said South coach Stacey Hazlett of Conemaugh Township. "After the intensity of the playoffs, it was hard to sit back and relax a little bit and just let the girls show their talent."
Rievel scored nine in the decisive second quarter, including a 3-pointer and layup in the final minute of the half that put her squad up by a dozen. Bard opened the second half with a 3-pointer, and DiFlauro followed with a putback to make it 41-24, and the North eventually carried that 17-point edge into the final quarter.
Bard's jumper ignited a 10-2 run to open the fourth that effectively put the game out of reach, as consecutive buckets by Rievel later gave the North girls their biggest lead of the day at 66-42.
The boys contest was a wide-open, run-and-gun game that featured outstanding individual performances on both sides.
Somerset's Eddie Buck finished with a game-best 26 points and 11 rebounds for the South, earning MVP honors.
"We had a lot of teamwork, and didn't depend on just one person," Buck said.
Conemaugh Valley's Dalton Uncapher added 22 points for the South, which also got five 3-pointers and 19 points from Conemaugh Township's Grant Speigle.
"My hardest decision of the night was how to keep 14 guys happy," said South coach Robert Snyder of Shanksville. "The guys worked hard, and pretty much were able to coach themselves.
"This was a great group of kids to be around."
The North was paced by Dwight Andrews of Greater Johnstown, who finished with 21 points. Westmont Hilltop teammates Joe Glennon and Quentin Brandon added 18 and 16 points, respectively, for the North.
"There was a lot of talent on the floor," said North coach Neil Cobaugh of Greater Johnstown. "Everybody had a great time. They came out in a 3-2 zone, and that kind of kept us off balance a bit."
Andrews came out on fire for the North, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and scoring 12 in the opening quarter to stake his club to an early 24-16 lead. Uncapher hit two 3-pointers to key a 10-2 second quarter run for the South that eventually tied the game 26-26 on two free throws by Conemaugh Valley's Hunter Furman.
The North subsequently regained a 41-33 lead following consecutive buckets by Brandon and Bishop McCort's Zach Varga, but the South pulled within four at the break on back-to-back buckets from Uncapher and Speigle.
The North took a 70-63 lead into the fourth and was up 85-76 with nearly five minutes to play before the South battled back. Buck scored three straight baskets to pull the South within 87-82.
Justin Smith of Forest Hills answered with a jumper to put the North up by seven, but 3-pointers by Speigle and Uncapher sparked an 8-0 run to give the South a 90-89 lead at the 1:55 mark. An Andrews 3-pointer put the North back on top, but Buck then tied it at 92 with a pair of free throws with 1:05 left.
Both teams came up empty on possessions in the final minute. The South turned it over with 2.3 seconds to play after holding for a final shot, and Brandon misfired on a long 3-point try as the buzzer sounded to force overtime.
The South took control of the extra session, as Furman's layup put his team ahead to stay at 94-92. Uncapher followed with a huge 3-pointer, leading to a run of 11 consecutive points that was capped off by a pair of Buck layups that made it 103-92.
"We just stuck with it and played as a team," Uncapher said. "Everybody stepped up at the end."
North (71): Davis 2 0-2 5, Kearney 1 1-2 3, Kegg 1 0-0 2, Rievel 9 0-0 20, DiFlauro 5 3-4 13, Hoover 0 2-2 2, Bard 4 2-2 11, Koshute 1 0-0 2, Verba 1 2-4 4, Holtzman 4 1-2 9. Totals: 28 11-18 71.
South (59): Feathers 0 0-0 0, Harshberger 1 2-4 4, Null 2 5-6 9, Penatzer 2 1-2 7, Gruss 1 0-0 2, Menett 1 0-0 2, Pollino 2 0-0 6, Lohr 2 0-0 6, Reckner 2 3-4 7, Rhoades 2 0-0 4, Muha 5 2-4 12. Totals: 20 13-20 59.
North14 22 20 15 - 71
South12 12 15 20 - 59
3-point goals: North 4 (Rievel 2, Davis, Bard); South 6 (Penatzer 2, Pollino 2, Lohr 2).
North (94): Watson 3 0-0 7, Wilson 4 0-0 8, Glennon 7 0-1 18, Varga 1 0-0 2, Leech 1 0-0 2, Lauer 0 0-0 0, Bryja 0 0-0 0, Scoran 0 0-0 0. Smith 4 0-0 8, Williams 3 0-0 6, Haselrig 3 0-2 6, Brandon 7 0-0 16, Flick 0 0-0 0. Andrews 9 0-0 21. Totals: 42 0-3 94.
South (105): Beiler 1 0-0 2, Zambanini 2 0-0 4, Moser 0 0-0 0, Bittner 3 0-0 6, Cooney 1 0-0 2, Furman 3 2-2 9, Speigle 7 0-0 19, Mock 1 0-0 3, Donaldson 2 0-0 5, Duppstadt 0 0-0 0, Miller 1 0-0 3, Uncapher 9 0-0 22, Kendera 2 0-0 4, Buck 12 2-2 26. Totals: 44 4-4 105.
North24 17 29 22 2 - 94
South16 21 26 29 13- 105
3-point goals: North 10 (Glennon 4, Andrews 3, Brandon 2, Watson); South 13 (Speigle 5, Uncapher 4, Furman, Mock, Donaldson, Miller).