By KEVIN THOMPSON
In the end, it had everything a high school all-star game should.
Senior boys from as close as Garden City, Holcomb and Deerfield to as far away as Liberal, Tribune and Wichita.
A shot clock to ensure an offensive show.
And a 72-70 win on a tip-in at the buzzer.
BJ Washington of Liberal put back a rebound as the buzzer sounded to give the win to the Gray team in the Southwest Kansas senior all-star game hosted by Garden City Community College on Sunday afternoon.
The Gray team, coached by Garden City High School boys basketball coach Jacy Holloway, had built a comfortable 23-6 lead early in the first half, but the Gold team cut it to 43-38 by halftime.
After falling down 50-40 to start the second half, the Gold team went on a 17-2 run to take its first lead of the game with about 12 minutes remaining. They capitalized on a scoring drought of just one field goal in 15 possessions by the Gray team.
The score see-sawed the rest of the game, with the Gold's Braden Taylor of Garden City giving his team a 70-69 lead with 2:05 left.
A free throw tied the game with 1:20 to play and both teams botched opportunities to play for one shot late until Washington's heroics.
Nate Schmitt, boys coach at Wichita County High School and coach of the Gold team, liked the competitiveness without the pressure.
"I told all the kids that I was excited to coach their team rather than coach against them," Schmitt said. "A lot of (the Gold team players) I had to coach against during the year."
With little time to meet with, let alone plan for, his all-star team, Schmitt said the fundamentals of his job were the same as in a high school game.
"I just tried to motivate them to be aggressive, have fun, share the ball, and compete," he said. "You just try to let them show their skills. I just kind of sat back and let them play."
The 35-second shot clock was used to be sure the offense got going, but Schmitt said that wasn't even an issue with his squad.
"I don't think we had to worry about it as much as quick as we were shooting and firing it up there," he said with a laugh.
Holloway concurred with Schmitt's assessments of the game approach.
"I told them just to have fun," he said. "I thought they shared the ball pretty good for not having played with each other."
As well, he liked the concept of smaller schools such as 1A Greeley County, Ingalls, Bucklin, Deerfield and Ashland getting to play against larger school players, like 6A Garden City and 5A Liberal.
"And I know some of these kids see each other in the summer some," he said, "so a lot of them already knew each other."
Gary Parks of 2A Syracuse played opposite teammate JD Howell, and Parks enjoyed his last high school basketball competition.
"You just have to work as hard as you can to get used to each other as fast as you can," Parks said.
The senior forward-wing drained a couple of three's in a losing effort, but he felt good about it.
"It felt weird," he said. "I haven't shot in quite a while. I've played a lot of 'dunk ball' instead."
Taylor said he had a lot of fun playing in this type of game.
"Just getting up and down and getting to meet a lot of new guys," the Buffalo forward said. "That's what makes this a fun game. It's get up and down, be unselfish and just run."
Taylor, who played against teammate Jake Curran, said he enjoyed getting to see talent from some of the area smaller schools.
"A lot of these small schools have a lot of good talent. You just don't see or hear about them," he said. "It's good to see. They can play."
Holcomb's Andrew Homer played for the Gray team, opposite Brendan Thomas. They saw this game from a more philosophical perspective.
"We just talked about it in the locker room," Homer said after the game. "That was our last hoorah playing together because we'll start going our separate ways now, I guess. I'm glad we got to do it one more time."
The game was not as intense as a typical high school game, he added, but it was more fun.
"The level of athletes and how good they are — that's really fun," he said.
Other local players competing in this event were Joey Franzitta of Cimarron, Seth Holliday of Stanton County, Beto Martinez of Deerfield, Chaz Schneider of Greeley County, Gabe Martinez of Wichita County, Landon Vanderree of Ingalls and Alex White of Sublette.