COLUMBUS, Ohio - Brandon Knight had a quiet night until the very end.
The two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year from
Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
) drilled a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left, lifting the West to a 107-104 victory in the 33rd annual McDonald's All-American game at Value City Arena on the campus of Ohio State University.
Knight, the No. 1 recruit in the country according to MaxPreps, made just 3-of-11 from the floor and was 0-for-6 from 3-point range before making the game winner after not being able to find the team's No. 1 option Harrison Barnes.
The 6-foor-4 Knight, who is one of seven players in the game uncommitted to college, created space with a push off against defender Kendall Marshall (O'Connell, Arlington, Va.), who fell to the floor. That allowed Knight to spot up and swish it from the right wing.
Knight finished with just nine points, well off his regular-season scoring average of 32.5.
"You have to have confidence in your shot no matter how you've been shooting or shooting before," Knight said. "I went up with confidence and it worked out."
After Knight's make, East MVP and local standout Jared Sullinger's long heave beyond halfcourt missed wide right and the West won for the first time since 2007 and now trails in the series, 18-15.
Barnes was the West MVP and finished with 18 points to lead a balanced attack. Terrence Jones (Jefferson, Portland, Ore.) added 14 points, Doron Lamb 12 and Jereme Richmond 11. Keith Appling and Joshua Smith added 10 points apiece for the winners.
Sullenger (Northland High School, Columbus), who was hospitalized earlier in the day due to food poisoning that led to dehydration, led all scorers with 22 points and seven rebounds for the East. Teammates Josh Selby, Jayvaughn Pinkston and Kyrie Irving all had 13 apiece.
The East had squandered a 59-51 halftime lead and trailed by its largest margin 102-91 following one of 33 dunks, this one by Young with 3:04 remaining.
But the East caught fire behind a 3-pointer from Sullinger and a pair of big dunks by Perry Jones III, the last one with 51 seconds left, cutting the lead to 104-102.
After a stop, Thomas sent down the game's last dunk off a lob pass by Selby with 32 seconds left to tie it for the 15th time in the game.
"We just finally got it all together at the end," said Sullinger, who finished made 7 of 11 shots and all six free throws. "Then Brandon had to ruin it all."
The West called timeout and wanted to get Barnes in the post, but no such luck. Barnes was guarded so Knight had to improvise. His make was the 17th and final lead change of an overall entertaining contest in front of an estimated 11,000 fans.
"We had the right guy with the ball in his hands," West co-coach Eric Flannery said. "It was definitely nothing we drew up. In a game like this it's not always about the x's and the o'x but the Jimmys and the Joes."
Sullinger's night in front of the home crowd was just about perfect. He just needed to make the 60-footer at the buzzer and win it during overtime.
"I would trade this MVP trophy in for a victory any day of the week," Sullenger said. "You have to give Brandon credit. He's a great player and he stepped up and made the biggest play at the end."
The 6-9, 261-pound Sullinger was just happy to be playing at all. He believes some chicken wings did him in the night before.
"I wasn't sure I was gonna make it, but I'm glad I did," Sullinger said. "I actually did a little better than I thought I would."
West 107, East 104
WEST: Terrence Jones 7-11 0-1 1, Brandon Knight 3-11 2-3 9, Fab Melo 1-3 0-0 2, Doron Lamb 6-11 0-0 12, Harrison Barnes 7-10 3-3 18, Ray McCallum 2-7 0-0 4, Cory Joseph 1-6 0-0 2, Tristan Thompson 4-7 0-0 8, Patric Young 3-4 1-2 7, Jereme Richmond 5-7 1-2 11, Keith Appling 4-15 0-0 10, Joshua Smith 4-5 2-2 10. Totals 47-97 9-13 107.
EAST: Deshaun Thomas 5-14 1-2 11, Kyrie Irving 5-8 2-2 13, Tobias Harris 6-7 0-0 13, Jared Sullinger 7-11 6-6 22, Reggie Bullock 3-6 0-0 6, Jelan Kendrick 2-3 1-2 5, Perry Jones III 3-4 0-0 6, Joe Jackson 0-1 2-2 2, C.J. Leslie 3-6 1-2 9, Kendall Marshall 0-2 2-2 2, Jayvaughn 2-8 0-1 4, Josh Selby 6-10 1-2 13. Totals 42-80 16-21 104.
Halftime score: East 59, West 51.
3-point goals: West 4-25 (Appling 2, Knight, Barnes), East 4-18 (Sullinger 2, Irving, Harris). Rebounds: West 50 (Young 9), East 44 (Leslie 9). Assists: West 18 (Melo 4), East 21 (Marshall 5). Fouled out: none. Turnovers: West 17, East 21.
Guess what?: It's a dunkfest early on - surprise! - and Harrison Barnes is in the middle of it.
On four straight possessions, the West finished things off with a flush, all four when the East didn't get back on defense.
One of the more hilarious sequences is when Barnes unselfishly threw off ball off the backboard for Terrence Jones on a breakaway. But Jones, a 6-9 specimen from Portland, missed and guess who got the rebound? Barnes and he then dunked it home.
About five seconds later, Barnes led the break again and Jones followed but the Ames, Iowa standout plowed the ball down. The North Carolina-bound Barnes is having his way thus far with 13 points and the West leads 38-37 with 6:34 left in the half.
Historics onslaughts: Judging by this action, we think both teams will hit 120, which has only happened three times - all in consecutive years, starting in 1999. The West won all three years by the scores of 141-128, 146-120 and 131-125.
My favorite first-half play wasn't even a dunk. The electric Irving faked a wrap-around pass in the key and everyone - EVERYONE - bit. Irving then went in for uncontested layup.
Halftime update: The East leads 59-51 behind 13 points from Tobias Harris, 11 from Irving and Sullinger nine. Barnes leads all scorers with 15 and Jones 10 for the West. The East is "shooting" 56 percent (36 points are in the paint and 10 have come on free throws). That means 10 points have come from the perimeter. Each team has 24 rebounds and no one has more than five.
Home boy: Value City Arena is largely Sullinger's house and like any host he wants to make a good impression.
Getting ill and missing the game wasn't part of the plan.
The 6-foot-9 261-pound post from nearby Northland High (Columbus) sustained food poisoning early Wednesday morning and was actually hospitalized. He got through it though and looked good in the first half especially on one sequence when he drilled a 3-pointer then came down on a 2-1 fastbreak and hipchecked a defender into the Olentangy River and scored a layup.
Sullinger said Tuesday he wasn't at all nervous about the fact all eyes will be on Columbus' favorite son. He also promised that the East squad would be sharing the ball, something not always displayed in these All-Star events.
"Everyone is going to get their fair share of shots," Sullinger said.
In the first half he was right as five different East players had between five and eight shots. Jones and Barnes combined for 17 shots for the West, which had every player take at least one shot.
Get out of the way: There's absolutely no defense going on - especially from the East - as the West has gone on a 16-4 run in the first four minutes to take a 67-63 lead. Tristan Thompson had three consecutive dunks to open the streak. This one looks destined to come down to the last three minutes when both teams will put out defensively.
I'm betting on Barnes, Knight and the West, though the combination of Sullinger and Irving look awfully determined.
The stadium is about three-quarters full on the bottom bowl - we're estimating 11,000 fans or so. We were in the media room doing interviews from the girls game and could barely tell the boys had started. It's awfully quiet except for frequent groans on made and missed dunks. No real cheering except when Sullinger scores. It's extremely quiet between dunks and big blocks.
Here we go: The West has maintained a 10-12 lead most of the way, but suddenly the East has been energized thanks to Sullinger and a couple huge dunks by Jones, the second one off the break to cut the lead to 104-102 with 1:02 left.
After a West miss, the East broke loose on another break, this time with Deshaun Thomas sending down a dunk off a nice feed from Selby. That tied it at 104 with 32 seconds left before Knight's heroics.
West 84, East 75
Meighan Simmons - like all the McDonald's All-Americans reserves - wasn't used to coming off the bench.
"I normally let the game to me," said the 5-9 point guard from Steele High School (Cibolo, Texas). "But I was just so exciting getting in there I just kind of went wild and rushed things."
But that was a good thing for the West.
She exploded for 21 points in just 14 minutes of play, leading the West to its third straight victory and seventh in the nine-year history.
Simmons, a Tennessee signee, was instant energy and offense, taking a game-high 15 shots (making seven) and she was 6-fot-6 at the foul line. She earned the MVP trophy for the West, while Natasha Howard, from nearby Toledo, Ohio, didn't disappoint the home fans taking the East MVP honors. She had team highs of 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
"I never imagined coming here to win this award," Simmons said. "I just tried to stay focus and have some fun."
It was much more fun excelling with her Texas peers. Karla Gilbert (A&M Consolidated) and Chiney Ogwumike (Cy-Fair) added 15 and 14 points respectively, Richa Jackson had 12 and 6-7 Madison Williams (Detroit Country Day) had just four points, but a team-high 13 rebounds for the West.
The West featured five Texas players in all - injured Odyssey Sims (MacArthur) stepped on the court the final 10 seconds - and Co-head coach Cathy Self-Morgan (Duncanville) and assistant Elesha Walker (Duncanville) are also from Texas, giving this victory a definitely Lone Star feel.
"I think Texas high school basketball has been overlooked for a long time," Simmons said.
The East, which also got a huge game from Bria Hartley with 17 points and five steals, had to overlook Simmons when she entered about six minutes into the game because they couldn't see her.
She is very fleet.
Simmons drilled three straight buckets for the West, one on a pretty fastbreak layup and two outside jumpers. While Simmons was attacking from the perimeter, 6-5 Stefanie Dolson was having her way inside as she took scored three straight buckets for her squad, during a an even and uptempo shootout.
But the West finally found separation with a 12-2 run, highlighted by two buckets each from Ogwumike and Simmons, to go up 28-18.
The East, which made 35 percent from the field and turned the ball over 30 times, never could recover.
"We just came out way too tense," Hartley said. "The second half we were much looser and played more of our game."
The West extended the lead to 22 early in the second half, when Hartley and Howard brought the team back, getting as close as 78-72 with 45.9 seconds to play following back-to-back 3-pointers from Hartley and Maggie Lucas.
But Simmons and Ogwumike each drilled two free throws and Bria Horn drilled a turnaround jumper and the West won going away.
Making 17 of 23 free throws helped - compared to 8-for-16 for the East - and the West made some fantastic hustle plays in a very physical game that featured numerous bodies wrestled to the ground while going after loose balls.
"We had more big girls and we expected the contact," Ogwumike said. "But it was all in good spirit. We know the game has a bigger meaning. I just thing we made all the little plays and that led to big things."
Texas-style big in this case.
West 84, East 75
Chelsea Gray 2-8 0-2 4, Richa Jackson 5-11 2-3 12, Lindsay Sherbert 3-6 0-1 7, Madison Williams 2-5 0-0 4, Chiney Ogwumike 6-8 2-2 14, Afure Jemerigbe 0-3 1-2 1, Aaryn Ellenberg 1-5 2-3 4, Meighan Simmons 7-15 6-6 21, Tiffany Moore 1-7 0-0 2, Odyssey Sims 0-0 0-0 0, Karla Gilbert 5-6 4-4 15, Theresa Plaisance 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 32-77 17-23 84.
Maggie Lucas 1-11 0-0 3, Natasha Howard 7-12 3-8 20, Bria Hartley 5-14 4-4 17, Jennifer Peters 3-7 0-0 7, Bria Horn 2-6 0-0 , Jennifer O'Neill 2-3 1-2 5, Ronika Ransford 1-4 0-2 2, Kayla McBride 1-5 0-0 2, Laurin Mincy 0-2 0-0 0, Stefanie Dolson 6-12 0-0 12, Alicia DeVaughn 1-5 0-0 3, Samarie Walker 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 29-83 8-16 75.
Halftime score: West 37, East 24.
3-point goals: West 3-20 (Gilbert, Simmons, Sherbert), East 9-27 (Howard 3, Hartley 3, Lucas, Peters, O'Neill). Rebounds: West 57 (Williams 13), East 51 (Howard 9). Assists: West 16 (Gray, Moore 4), East 17 (Howard 5). Turnovers: West 29, East 30. Steals: West: 18 (Gray, Gilbert 5), East 15 (Hartley 5).
West out and gunning: Wow. We have two words for you. Meighan and Simmons. The 5-9, 121-pound guard from Steele (Cibolo, Texas) is greased lightning. And not afraid to fling the ball up.
She added instant offense off the bench and took 12 shots in seven minutes, leading the West to a 37-24 lead. Simmons, a Tennessee commit, made five of her shots and scored 10 points, Richa Jackson, a 6-foot forward from Midwest City (Okla.) added eight points.
Natasha Howard, a tremendous 6-4 talent from nearby Waite (Toledo, Ohio), and Stefanie Dolson, a powerful 6-5, 230-pound post from Minisink Valley (Port Jervis, N.Y.) headed for Connecticut, kept the East close with eight points apiece.
Madison Williams (Detroit Country Day), a 6-7 post, has taken just one shot but is making a huge impact with eight rebounds and three assists for the West, who also have had strong showings by Chiney Ogwumike (six points on 3 of 4 shooting) and Chelsea Gray (four points, three steals, two assists).
Simmons and Dolson had a mini dual trading three buckets apiece early in the first half, before a 12-2 run from the West keyed by two buckets each from Simmons and Ogwumike, gave the West some cushion.
Sims honored: Nice to see Odyssey Sims honored at halftime. The MacArthur (Irving, Texas) standout guard tore her an ACL late in the postseason and has been on crutches throughout the week. She was given the McDonald's Naismith Award for sportsmanship. Better yet, Sims entered the game in the final 10 seconds and stood at halfcourt as the final buzzer sounded.
Gilbert goes off: One of the West's trees - they have three players 6-5 or taller - Karla Gilbert showed a little bit of all her skills in the first three minutes of the second half. After swishing four free throws, Gilbert, a 6-5 forward going to Texas A&M, sank a 3-pointer then drove left for a layup.
After scoring just two points in eight minutes in the first half, Gilbert is the game's leading scorer with 13 points with 14:15 left in the game. The West leads 58-36.
All hands on deck: And feet and arms and bodies too. This has been a rough one. Players from both teams are getting knocked to the ground and don't see a lot of helping hands.
Howard's contingent: Howard has a large and loud contingent of fans clad in purple and she's hasn't disappointed. She finished with a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds.
West wins: Simmons kept it up in the second half and finished with a game-high 21 points in just 14 minutes as the West pulled out a 84-75 victory. Simmons made 7 of 15 shots and was 6-for-6 at the free throw line.
Gilbert finished with 15, Ogwumike 14 and Jackson 12 as the West won for the third straight year and now leads the series 7-2. Williams scored just four points, but had a game-high 13 rebounds.
Howard was voted co-MVP as she made 7 of 12 shots and also added five assists. Bria Hartley was very impressive throughout and finished with 17 points and Dolson, after a fast start, had 12.