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One last dance
Mid-Valley sends off senior ballers in fashion
Half-hour to gametime, a gym full of players who've never met, let alone practiced with each other. They wore Vans, logo T's and sweats while showing no outward rush to get into the locker room and suit up. They didn't talk much either, simply relying on playground etiquette to warm-up: make shot, get change.
At 7 p.m., they would get thrown together as part of the "home" and "away" squads of Wednesday's All-Star game, the final time any of them would wear their jerseys in a game.
This was goodbye, and the entire theme was casual, down to the referees wearing shorts. Implications, playoff seedings, wins and losses — none of it mattered in the Northern California All-Star Senior Showcase.
It showed, too. Laughs replaced lectures. Banzai layup drives replaced pick-and-rolls and defense was replaced by nothing. The shot clock itself was turned off, though the odds of a violation occurring were about as likely as having VCU in your NCAA tournament bracket.
The final score was "away" 115, "home" 93, though nobody seemed too worried about the outcome. The goals for the coaches were enjoyment and equal playing time.
"Mess around and not play any D ..." was the way Yuba City forward Tim Claydon described his last time officially wearing his No. 32 home whites. "It's good to hang out with friends and other (talented players)."
In all, 19 players from around the Mid-Valley and just outside the region were invited for the second-annual event at River Valley High. Falcons coach Terry Evans founded the showcase, and this season reached beyond the local area to bring in more players.
The "home" team, coached by Gridley's Nathan Link, had players representing Yuba City, River Valley, Gridley, Cosumnes Oaks (Elk Grove), Woodland and Inderkum. Claydon and the Bulldogs' Jessep MacFarlane both had 10 points while Woodland's Aaron Turner poured in 19.
Marysville's Mark Wright coached the "away" team, which was stocked with names from his Indians, East Nicolaus, Lincoln, Nevada Union and Mesa Verde (Citrus Heights). Before tip-off he stood next to the event's gold colored trophies and said he wasn't feeling that confident. The sentiment didn't change his strategy though, which involved using timeouts to laugh and joke instead of trying to marker board-up a play.
But with four players from Mesa Verde — including a game-high 23 from Alex Rossi — and MVP Colin Lee (Nevada Union) scoring 17, his team had no problem taking advantage.
"It was pretty relaxed," he said.
Also added for this year was a 3-point contest between some of the area's top outside shooters. Using a shooting machine, each of the four contestants were given 25 shots. Appeal-Democrat All-Area MVP Matt Hayes advanced to the finals before losing by a shot to River Valley's Jake Phillips.
Players like Phillips and Hayes could be back for next year's game, but for Claydon this really was it. He's looking at playing at Sierra College next year, though completely letting go isn't in the plans yet.
As he prepared to walk out of Falcon Gymnasium, he asked his old high school coach a quick question.
"Do you guys have open gym tomorrow?"