PALM SPRINGS, Calif. —
The idea of competing with 43 other dunkers didn't intimidate JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
senior Johnnie Vassar
To the contrary, the 6-foot point guard looked forward to the MaxPreps Holiday Classic slam-dunk contest Saturday night all the more.
"Honestly, I'm a crowd man," he said. "The crowd boosted me up. It was Showtime."
Vassar was by far the most impressive dunker on a day of lots of misses. More than 2,500 fans showed up at Rancho Mirage for the semifinal games of the 24-team Invitational Division, then cheered on the 3-point and dunk contestants.
The strong, compact, high-jumping Vassar sent the fans into a frenzy on several attempts many that missed. But he scored a perfect 80 (10 from each of the eight judges) with a toss off the back wall, bounce and then throw down right at the rim. See entire slam dunk contest gallery from David Hood
"I've done that dunk before but so many different things can happen," Vassar said. "I'm just glad it bounced the right way."
Life is definitely going the right directions for Vassar, who Christmas Eve committed to Northwestern, near his native Chicago roots.
"It's been a good stretch," Vassar said. "Everything happens for a reason."
This was the second time Vassar entered a dunk contest. The first was when he was a freshman in a contest in Indiana. He said he finished second behind current 6-9 Indiana University sophomore Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
No shame there.
His J-Serra coach Joedy Gardner encouraged Vassar to give the MaxPreps dunk contest a try. Vassar is the leading scorer for the Lions (7-4) at 18.7 points per game after scoring at a 13.3 clip as a junior when they finished 17-9.
While stretching before Saturday's contest, Vassar met up with defending champion and
King (Riverside, Calif.)
senior Ryan Lough
, who at 5-10 stands at about the same size as Vassar.
"We agreed one of us had to win it for the little guy," Vassar said.
He finished things off with a high toss that bounced off the floor where Vassar grabbed it and dunked down with authority. That inspired many of his J-Serra teammates to mob him.
His teammate Dante Pettis
also made the finals as did Devon Gilmore
of Madison-Ridgeland Academy (Madison, Miss.)
, Levi Auble
of Anchorage Christian (Anchorage, Alaska)
, Lough and Derek Funderburk
of St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio)
"I think everything went very well," Vassar said. "This was a great experience."
It was for Calvin Hoffman
as well. The Anchorage Christian senior won the 3-point contest with 21 points, to win over Bea Bommarito
of Christian Brothers (St. Louis, Mo.)
with 19, and Marcus Williams
of Wenonah (Birmingham, Ala.)
Unlike most 3-point contests, this one was done with a automatic ball return opposed to racks. The pace is much more deliberate, which Hoffman said served as an advantage.
It was his first 3-point competition.
"We have a machine at home and I must have shot thousands of times with it," he said. "I don't think I would have done nearly as well with racks." Abby Conklin
, of San Juan Hills (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
, was the girls' 3-point champion with 17 points and Alexandra Lewis
of Laguna Beach (Calif.)
was second (11 points).
No. 16 Etiwanda loses second straight:
It was no beauty pageant, but St. Edward rebounded from a disappointing loss to Westchester with a gritty 43-40 win over the nation's No. 16 team Etiwanda (Calif.)
, which missed the nation's No. 44 recruit Jordan McLaughlin
with a dislocated left shoulder. Tony Vuyancih
had 16 points for the winners, who made just 7 of 16 free throws. Other than that, St. Edward coach Eric Flannery was very pleased with the bounce-back win.
"This is why we came all the way across country for games like this against an elite program," Flannery said. "We didn't play great, but we grinded it out."
Etiwanda, coming off a listless 48-42 loss to Capital Christian on Friday, played harder and better said Etiwanda coach David Kleckner. But after 12 straight wins to start the season, the Eagles lost their second straight.
They were led by 16 points from Kameron Edwards
. Kleckner made no bones about it. His team missed McLaughlin, who will be examined next week to determine the length of his absence. McClaughlin said his right shoulder has been dislocated for the last couple of years and he just gets it moved back into place.
The Eagles' medical team couldn't do so with his left shoulder.
"Honestly, I have to think Jordan is worth at least 10 points," Kleckner said. "He's so poised and brings so much to the team. … That said, we didn't compete on Friday. Today we did. We just didn't execute.
"That's OK. We played without Jordan for a spell last year and it proved to be good for us." Wenonah rebounds:
A night after losing a 14-point fourth quarter lose in a double-OT loss to Poly, Wenonah answered with a 62-58 consolation win over Columbia Christian. Justin Coleman
, who had 36 versus Poly, came back with 30 for Wenonah.