MIAMI, Fla. – Lance Stephenson hard dribble. Stephenson lob pass. Derrick Favors dunk.
Stephenson hard dribble. Stephenson lob pass. Favors dunk.
Every McDonald’s All-American Game has its signature players and SportsCenter moments.
But those back-to-back almost identical buckets in the final 43 seconds not only lifted the East to a 113-110 victory at the BankUnited Center Wednesday night, but it will be the indelible, stop-the-clock images that the 32nd game between the high school elite will be forever remembered.
“They were special plays made by special players at a special time in the game,” East coach Darryl Burrows said.
Indeed, that’s why you can bet the ESPN folks and still photographers everywhere will keep the two ally-oop plays in the “red hot” archive file.
Stephenson (Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Favors (South Atlanta HS, Ga.) aren’t long for amateur ball.
Favors, a fluid 6-9, 235-pound Georgia Tech commit, was named game Most Valuable Player less than a week after McDonald’s named him its National Player of the Year. He had a team-high 19 points and game-high eight rebounds in 18 minutes.
Stevenson, a powerful 6-6, 220-pound shooting guard who is still weighing his college options, is New York’s career scoring leader and city prep legend. He had 12 points, six assists and three steals in a game-high 23 minutes.
Both players are considered NBA lottery picks in the next two to three years and both have been starring in All-Star games and summer AAU showcases since the ninth grade.
They’re late-game connection was nothing new and it helped the East to their second straight and sixth win in last eight outings. It now owns an 18-14 lead in the series.
“Every time I play with Lance it’s the same thing – pick and roll,” Favors said. “He must have had 20 assists tonight. … He knows where I’m going to be and I got the hands to handle his passes.”
Said Stephenson: “I know he’s a great player and if I pass to him he’s going to get the job done. That’s why we won tonight.”
After Xavier Henry (Putnam City HS, Oklahoma City, Okla.) drilled a 3-pointer with 1:40 left to give the West a 110-109 lead, Stephenson took a pass from DeMarcus Cousins (14 points, eight rebounds), dribbled down the right side and found Favors sprinting unchecked down the left side.
His lob pass was perfect and Favors put it down to give the East the lead for good with 43 seconds left.
After a 3-point miss by Tommy Mason-Griffin (James Madison HS, Houston, Texas) and Cousins (LeFlore Magnet HS, Mobile, Ala.) grabbed another rebound. Following a timeout, Stephenson found Favors free again racing down the left flank for another jam, this one with seven seconds left.
The West opted not to call timeout and a straightaway 3-pointer under heavy duress by Mason Plumlee (Christ School, N.C.) wasn’t really close at the buzzer.
“Everybody just forgot about me,” said Favors when asked how he got free for the dunks.
How at his size and stature was that possible? At that point of the game?
West 6-9, 293-pound center Keith “Tiny” Gallon (Oak Hill Academy, Va.), who had a game-high 20 points along with seven rebounds in 21 minutes, gave a half-serious answer.
“Derrick is a very sneak person,” Gallon said with a grin. “He’ll rebound at one end and when you turn around he’ll be gone. As far as the last two buckets I don’t know what to say about that.”
Henry (14 points, five rebounds, 23 minutes) was a little more vocal. The rugged 6-6, 225-pound guard said the West’s transition defense broke down late.
“It’s something we talked about all week and we did a decent job most of the game,” he said. “Then at the end people forgot. Big people get tired. Like Tiny. He’s got a big motor most of the game but you can’t expect him to have it the whole way.”
As much as Henry enjoyed the McDonald’s experience, it was also a trying week. The Memphis-signee has asked out of his letter of intent with the departure of John Calipari to Kentucky on Wednesday. MaxPreps’ No. 5 recruit from the Class of 2009 said he’ll spend the weekend with his family and start the recruiting process all over again.
That is if Memphis releases him from his letter. Most colleges do. His brother C.J. plays at Memphis but his parents attended Kansas, which was Henry’s only other recruiting trip.
“We’re going to start from scratch and it’s a bump in the road but it will all work out,” Henry said. “This was a good distraction but a win would have been nice.
“We just took some bad shots and had some rebounding problems. At the end people were looking for theirs which was a little frustrating for someone like me when I’m trying to get others involved but not getting it back. But if you set that all aside it was a team effort and we lost by just a couple points and the blame is on every one not just one person.”
Cousins, a Memphis commit but not a signee, said he’ll too start the recruiting process over. His other finalists before choosing Memphis were LSU, Kansas State, Washington and North Carolina State.
The victory lifted him after hearing the unraveling news from Calipari. Cousins is the No. 2 recruit in the country, according to MaxPreps.
“The win definitely feels good,” Cousins said. “Hearing about coach Calipari was definitely disappointing but it’s just a learning experience. Winning tonight definitely helps clear my mind a little.”
Like most All-Star games, there wasn’t much defense and the action was end-to-end. There were 33 dunks, 12 players in double figures (six on each side) and a combined 51 percent shooting.
Both teams made 48 shots, but the East tried 10 less shots and had 10 more assists, led by a game-high nine from Peyton Siva (Franklin HS, Seattle, Wash.).
“I think we just made plays and made shots when they counted,” Siva said.
Stephenson made most of the plays down the stretch, if not with the pass, then rebounding, steals and scoring. Before his final two assists, he had the East’s last three baskets, all fastbreak layups.
“When Lance is on like that he’s unstoppable,” Siva said. “They didn’t know what to do with him.”
Said Favors: “If he wanted to get the MVP he probably could have got it himself. But he played as a team. He’s a team player.”
Said Stephenson: “I’m confident in my game – that I can deliver at any point in the game in any way. I’m just happy we won. I don’t care what kind of game it is I don’t like to lose.”
Favors agreed and said his team took a different, more serious tact the second half after giving up 63 points in the first.
The East also got 15 points from Dominic Cheek (St. Anthony HS, Jersey City, N.J.) and Dante Taylor (National Christian Academy, Md.) and 10 by Kenny Boynton Jr. (American Heritage HS, Fla.).
The West received 15 points and six rebounds by slam dunk winner Avery Bradley Jr. (Findlay College Prep, Nev.), 14 points each from Henry and John Henson (Sickles HS, Fla.), 13 by Michael Snaer (Rancho Verde HS, Moreno Valley, Calif.) and 11 points, six rebounds and three assists from Renardo Sidney (Fairfax, Los Angeles, Calif.).
“We came into the locker room and we told each other we’re not going to lose this game,” Favors said. “Everyone gave their best effort and we came up with the win,”
Boynton, the local favorite, said his favorite part of the game was simple.
“It was watching Derrick Favors dominate,” he said. “He had a lot of crazy dunks and a great game.”
Gallon, also at the press podium at the time, spoke up.
“Hey I had some dunks too, you didn’t mention them,” he said with a laugh.
There were a lot of dunks in this one – 33 in all.
Most, however, will just remember the last two.
Look for a follow story, a feature on overseas options for blue chip recruits and Stephens’ top 10 takes later. Also look for a McDonald’s Game breakdown of Floridians from correspondent James Oyola.
East 113, West 110
West 63 47 - 110
East 55 58 - 113
Renardo Sidney 5-14 0-0 11, Abdul Gaddy 3-9 0-2 6, Avery Bradley 6-10 2-3 15, Xavier Henry 5-11 1-3 14, John Henson 7-10 0-0 14, Tommy Mason-Griffin 2-11 0-0 5, David Wear 0-2 0-0 0, Michael Snaer 6-9 1-2 13, Travis Wear 3-5 0-0 6, Keith Gallon 8-11 3-3 20, Mason Plumlee 3-8 0-0 6. Totals 48-100 7-13 110.
Lance Stephenson 6-11 0-2 12, Maalik Wayns 2-6 1-1 5, Ryan Kelly 3-6 0-0 6, Dexter Strickland 0-4 2-2 2, Derrick Favors 9-13 1-3 19, Dante Taylor 6-11 3-3 15, Kenny Boynton 4-11 2-3 10, DeMarcus Cousins 6-9 1-4 14, Milton Jennings 2-3 0-0 4, Peyton Siva 3-5 0-0 6, Dominic Cheek 6-8 1-5 15, Alex Oriakhi 1-3 3-5 5. Totals 48-90 14-28 113.
3-point goals: West 7-26 (Sidney 1-3, Gaddy 0-3, Bradley 1-2, Henry 3-6, Mason-Griffin 1-6, D. Wear 0-1, Snaer 0-2, Gallon 1-1), East 3-15 (Stephenson 0-2, Wayns 0-1, Kelly 0-1, Strickland 0-2, Boynton 0-4, Cousins 1-2, Siva 0-1, Cheeks 2-2). Rebounds: West 49 (Gallon 7), East 55 (Favors 8, Cousins 8). Assists: West 20 (Mason-Griffin 4), East 30 (Siva 9). Steals: West 9, East 8 (Stephenson 3). Total fouls: West 18, East 15. Turnovers: West 15, East 17.