By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
LA VERNE – Which side of the San Gabriel Valley is the best basketball played?
For one night, it appears its the east side that reigns surpreme after sweeping the boys and girls games Friday night in the 11th Tribune/Star-News All-Star Classic at Damien High School.
The Tribune All-Stars, getting 20 points from Walnut’s Rob Harrelson and 19 from Glendora’s Thomas Rico, rallied to beat their Star-News counterparts, 89-81.
In the girls game, Bonita’s Nikki Wheatley capped arguably one of the top area high school careers by scoring 18 points in leading the Tribune to a 85-60 victory.
Wheatley and Rico were their team’s game MVPs. The Star-News MVPs were Muir’s Dejon Williams, who had 12 points in the boys game, and the Mustangs’ Chy’annea Hodges, who had 11.
The Tribune now leads the boys’ series, 6-5, with the Tribune trimming the Star-News’ lead in the girls series to 6-5.
“This was great,” Rico said. “They were saying we’re undersized, so it’s great to come out and get the win.”
The Star-News, which rallied back from a 21-point deficit to tie the score at halftime, 44-44, looked like it might split the doubleheader when Alhambra’ Miles Ford (13 points) hit a 3-pointer and Keppel’s Adam Thompson converted a fast-break layup for a 70-66 lead. But then Rico, one of the area’s best 3-point shooters, got hot, scoring the next 12 points on three 3-pointers and a 3-point play for a 78-72 lead with 3:23 left.
The Star-News cut it to 87-81 with less than a minute left, but missed back-to-back 3-pointers with 30 seconds to play.
“I just wanted to make sure we got the win,” Rico said. “It got close, and I was able to take over and get us the win.”
The first half of the boys game was two halves in one before the teams settled for a 44-44 deadlock.
The Tribune, which got 13 first-half points from Harrelson, opened with a 34-13 blitz. Harrelson; Damien’s Cade Cunniff, who was a late replacement, and Glendora’s Thomas Rico each hit 3-pointers during the run.
But the Star-News team rallied back with runs of 11-0 and 20-8 to tie it at 44 at halftime.
In the girls game, the Tribune All-Stars put it away early in the second half after opening with an 18-3 surge for a 56-30 lead with about 10 minutes to play. Wheatley, who also had six steals, scored 10 in the second half to put the finishing touches on her high school career, which includes being a four-time All-Area player.
“It feels good to finish with all these amazing girls,” Wheatley said. “It was really fun, and to play with these amazing players was a great way to end my high school career.”
Bishop Amat’s Paulina Santana and Dagmar Ramirez had 15 and nine points, respectively, for the Tribune