BY SETH STAPLETON
PIGEON — The West All-Stars led wire to wire at the Third Annual Thumb Sportswriters Association Boys All-Star Basketball Game Friday night.
A monstrous fourth quarter by the West put the game out of reach, as the team came away with an 85-55 win over the East All-Stars at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port High School.
“That was a blast,” said West coach Mark Krug, of Bad Axe. “That’s a lot of talent out there on both sides of the floor.”
The teams played fairly even through one half of play. The West All-Stars took a 16-12 lead after one quarter and led 37-29 by the half.
Bad Axe’s Tommy Morneau scored 12 of his 22 points in the half to pace the West. Sandusky’s Brandon Potter netted 12 for the East to keep things close, including three three-pointers and a three-point play.
A three by Sandusky’s Danny Hale with just under five minutes to play in the third, trimmed the West lead to 43-38. Hale’s make was quickly answered by a triple from USA’s Aaron Saenz to make it 46-38, which seemed to get things rolling for the West.
“We started moving the ball around a little bit and the defense picked up,” Krug said. “But that didn’t surprise me — the defense that those guys played — they’re all really good defenders.”
After taking a 57-45 lead after three quarters, the West really opened it up in the fourth.
Saenz scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the final frame, and registered 18 points in the second half. He was named the game’s MVP, edging out Morneau, who scored 22 points on the night.
“I was really just trying to come out and have fun,” Saenz said. “All these guys, we’ve been rivals our whole lives, so getting to play with them as teammates was a lot of fun.”
Added Krug: “They really worked well together. They had a lot of fun at practice and I think they had a lot of fun here.”
While the game concluded a high school career for Saenz, it won’t be his last, as he will be moving on to play basketball and baseball at Alma College. He said he welcomes the challenge.
“Now that I’m going to the collegiate level, I’ve got a lot more training to do, a lot more hours to put in,” Saenz said. “It’s going to be fun to see where my level is at right now and how I can increase and get better.”
Adding to the West attack was Cass City’s Parker Haire with 11 points, Bad Axe’s Andrew Sutton with nine and Reese’s Kyle Gnatkowski with eight.
“I was honored to coach these guys — it was a great time,” Krug said. “It was a great experience for me, and I hope for them.”
For the East, Potter finished with 14 points, while Marlette’s Andrew Storm also tallied 14.
Also entertaining the many people on hand were the players taking part in the three-point and dunk contests.
In the three-point competition, it came down to a second tiebreaker shootout between Morneau and Saenz, before Morneau was finally crowned the champion. In the dunk contest, Vassar’s Tyler Humpert defeated Sutton in the finals.
“On short notice, Laker High School agreed to host our game this year,” said TSA President Paul Adams. “Athletic Director Shane Yoder, and everyone at Lakers, did a fantastic job making everyone feel welcome. I cannot thank them enough for their efforts. The move to Lakers did not affect our attendance, which I think speaks to how the event has been received.”
The games will return to Sandusky High School next season.