All-Star game a real slam dunk

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If every Thibodaux Regional Medical Center Bayou vs. River All-Star basketball shootout is as good as the first, look out – this game will quickly become a fan favorite in the Tri-parishes.

In a game that featured big-time players, big-time shots and also big-time drama, 40 minutes of regulation wasn’t enough to decide a winner.

Once in overtime, it was the River team that landed the last haymaker of the night, scoring a come-from-behind 101-95 overtime win before a packed crowd at Thibodaux High School’s gym Saturday night.

Everyone involved was left more than content with the official completion of the local prep basketball season.

“This was a heck of a game,” Terrebonne High School and Bayou All-Star coach Derek Szush said. “It was what I expected. Once everyone got comfortable out there, you saw a really, really competitive game, especially in the second half and overtime. … This whole night was a success and I’m just glad to be a part of it.

“This was awesome,” East St. John and River All-Star coach Yussef Jasmine agreed. “When you have an All-Star game where you have a lot of talented guys, you kind of expect a high scoring game and not as much defense, but we went up and down and back forth, but also played hard.

“If every one of these games is like this one, we’re all in for a treat.”

To get to the winner’s circle, the River All-Stars had a lot of work to do late in the second half of Saturday night’s thriller.

After trailing 41-39 at halftime, the Bayou team stormed out of the gates in the second half and used balanced scoring and team defense to run out to a 75-63 lead with eight minutes to go.

The inside-out punch of Ellender center Gibby Talbot and H.L. Bourgeois guards Tevin Jackson and Deonta Ward drew the eyes of the River defense during the spurt, which freed perimeter players like Vandebilt’s Seth Ward, E.D. White’s Ja’Dante Frye and Terrebonne’s James Ray and Charles Williams for open looks.

Being around the best of the best was something that was new and unique to everyone involved.

As a result, the level of play throughout the night got better as the game went on, as players got more used to their teammates.

“All of these guys, these are all of the best players on their teams,” Szush said. “So it’s a little bit different. It’s a little bit of an adjustment for them and for us as coaches to get the right lineups out there on the floor.”

“It was a little bit of a juggling act to find the right five,” Jasmine agreed.

For the East St. John coach, finding the right chemistry happened just in time.

With the 12 point deficit, the River team responded, trimming the Bayou team’s lead to four with just more than a minute to play.

Then, the apparent dagger struck.

Its name was James Ray.

The Terrebonne High School standout rebounded a Bayou miss and threw home a monstrous offensive rebound one-handed slam dunk in traffic, while being fouled by Riverside Academy’s Lucas Martin.

The dunk easily was the highlight of the night and sent the entire crowd into frenzy.

“That was sick,” Talbot said with a laugh. “That was about as good as I’ve seen in a game before.”

Again down by six, the River never faltered, trimming the lead to three with less than 10 seconds to play.

It was then that Martin got his revenge.

Mere minutes after being dunked on, the Riverside guard/forward responded and hit a game-tying 3-pointer.

“That’s a big shot,” Jasmine said. “For the obvious reason that it was a pressure shot with the game on the line. But for that young man to have that dunk happen to him on the defensive end, it would have been easy to hang his head. But he didn’t. That shows a lot of character.”

The Bayou had one last crack at the basket in regulation and Ward rimmed out a shot from about 30 feet at the buzzer.

“I thought it was in,” Szush said.

“It was a deep shot,” Talbot said. “But that’s his range.”

Once in overtime, the River team used its momentum to take the lead and also the game.

But both sides walked away winners on this night of basketball.

“Everyone deserves to be applauded,” Jasmine said. “This really was a great game.”

“It was real competitive,” Ward added, sporting a bloody bottom lip from the night’s action. “In another All-Star game that I played, we really didn’t play as hard. But this was like a real game. No one wanted to give up any ground out there.”

Before the game got under way, the local All-Stars got a chance to express themselves in both a 3-point shootout and a slam dunk contest.

In the 3-point shootout, Vandebilt’s Seth Ward used his smooth stroke to advance all the way to the finals.

Once there, Ward continued to impress and posted a solid score. But he wasn’t able to take home the title and was outlasted by the red-hot shooting of East St. John’s Chester Victor, who took home the title after making nearly 20 of his 25 shots from behind the arc – a feat that drew an ovation from the crowd.

In the slam dunk contest, several of the area’s best dunkers threw down their signature rim shaking specialties.

In an event that was defined more by near-misses than for slam dunking perfection, Ellender’s Gibby Talbot took home first prize and was crowned the area’s dunk champion.

Talbot was the only player to make his dunk in each round of the event, which allowed him to accumulate enough points to earn the title.

Not known for his jaw-dropping finesse around the basketball, Talbot was the first person to admit he was surprised to be the champion.

The Ellender All-State center wasn’t even supposed to take part in the contest, but was asked to compete after a couple other dunkers dropped out.

“Why not?” Talbot said with a laugh. “I’m a senior. This is my last high school basketball game. Why not go out there and give it a shot?

“But if James Ray would have completed the dunk in the contest that he did in the game, he’d have the trophy right now.”

Whether for the game, the dunks or the exhibition shooting, everyone said the inaugural version of the game was a hit.

If every year is as successful as the first, expect this game to become an annual hit within the Tri-parishes.

“Absolutely,” Szush said when asked if he’d be interested in coaching in next year’s game. “This was a great thing for the kids.”

Terrebonne’s Charles Williams throws down a reverse slam dunk in the dunk contest of Saturday night’s All-Star game.