By Greg Gulas
Call it a split — neither the Upper Tier nor Lower Tier held the upper hand during Thursday’s Inter-Tri County League all-star games at East Palestine High School.
In boys action, Southern Local’s Luke Griffith scored a game-high 26 points to pace the Lower Tier to a 102-77 victory.
In the girls game, United’s Emily Zehentbauer’s 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining lifted the Upper Tier to a 67-66 victory.
“I was looking to shoot the three and it just happened that Katie Crismon was able to get me the ball with an open look from beyond the arc,” Zehentbauer said. “I played AAU ball with many of my teammates so it was really nice to be together once again after playing against each other the entire season.”
Zehentbauer scored 12 points while United’s Courtney Hydrick contributed a game-high 16 points.
The Lower Tier coaches were Lowellville’s Tony Matisi and Columbiana’s Ron Moschella.
Their squad raced to an early 22-12 lead, but Crestview’s Ashley Harrison scored seven points to key a 19-5 run by the Upper Tier.
The Lower Tier fought back to take a 37-33 lead at intermission.
“Like the regular season, the all-star game is a very competitive game,” Matisi said. “It remains a high-energy game with a bevy of talent on both teams.”
The Lower Tier built a 51-38 lead, Zehentbauer and Hydrick scored baskets in an 8-0 run as the Upper Tier closed in.
Tied 64-64, Western Reserve’s Linley Mamonis scored a basket with 24 seconds remaining for the Lower Tier’s final lead.
Crismon then set up Zehentbauer with the game-winning shot.
In the boys game, Griffith scored 13 points in the first half as the Lower Tier raced to a 50-38 halftime advantage.
“Both teams wanted to have fun and that’s exactly how we approached tonight’s contest,” Griffith said. “Each side had their share of talent and great all-around players.
“In the end, we wanted to hit the century mark so we kept pushing the ball up the court and looking for the open man,” Griffith said.
East Palestine’s Austin Reiser scored a team-high 17 points for the Upper Tier.
“Both teams had excellent shooters so it was going to come down to which team would make stops defensively,” Reiser said. “An all-star game like this is just a great way to end your career.”
Griffith canned 15 triples in 60 seconds to outdistance Reiser to win the boys’ three-point shooting contest.
Lowellville’s Madison Opritza nailed six buckets from beyond the arc to capture the girls title. She outdistanced Harrison and Zehentbauer, each of whom converted five buckets in the allotted 60 seconds.