All on the same team
For five months Rutherford County basketball teams wanted nothing more than to beat each other for valuable wins and bragging rights. But on Friday night, five local stars joined forces at the annual Blue/White All-Star games at T.C. Roberson High School.
The games featured the top senior basketball players from across western North Carolina and three boys and two girls represented Rutherford County o the Blue Team rosters.
Chase's Shad Blaton, R-S Central's Jay Blanton and East Rutherford's Jarvis Hopper were chosen for the men's Blue Team while Chase's Kaitlyn Smart and R-S Central's Alyssia Watkins were chosen for the women's Blue Team.
The ladies tipped-off at 7 p.m. and Smart quickly corralled her first rebound and scored the first two points of the contest.
"You're not playing with your normal team. You're playing with new people in a new environment and see how fundamentally sound other girls are," Smart said of the all-star experience. "I thought it was an honor to play and know that it was myself and one other girl from the county that was chosen to play."
Watkins came off the bench for the Blue girls and finished the game with seven points while Smart came away with eight points in her final high school game as the Blue team fell 78-65.
"I was proud of all the kids but especially Alyssia," Central head coach Darius Fuller said of his senior guard. "To see her be rewarded in this fashion I think is deserving for her. She gave me four good, hard years and I was just like a proud 'poppa' up in the stands."
In the boy's game that started at 9:15 p.m., Shad Blanton put on a show in the first half.
Blanton had a streak of four straight 3-pointers that quickly got the Asheville crown behind him. Towards the end of the first half he got the crowd on their feet with a behind-the-back fake that turned into an easy transition layup to bring his first-half total to 14 points.
"I was just feeling it in the first half and I really wanted to win," Blanton said. "It was a nice experience to meet some guys that I've never played before and it was good to represent for Chase."
"[Blanton's] hard work through the season is really starting to pay off," Blanton's head coach Joe Jessen said after the game. "He played hard the entire game and I was really proud of him."
Blanton led the Blue Team with 19 points in the game while Jay Blanton and Hopper added eight and five, respectively, in an 86-80 loss.
In the final game for many of theses players, it was a chance for them to enjoy high school hoops one last time while representing their schools.
"Playing out here was a great experience. I came out and had fun and it helped me out," Jay Blanton said after the game. "I was surprised that I was selected. I just wanted to represent my school, put on a good show and not do anything bad to show them that Central is a good school."