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Unusual dunk highlights first Heritage Showcase

| Friday, April 3, 2009

SALTSBURG -- It was unlike any assist Ross Moreau ever had in a regular season game.

Late in the second half of the boys game of Saturday's Heritage Conference Basketball Showcase, the United forward had an uncontested breakaway along with South teammate Brock Henderson. As Henderson drove to the hoop, the 6-foot-5 Moreau picked up the 5-foot-7 Laurel Valley guard and lifted him high enough so Henderson could record his first career dunk.

"We were just messing around during warm-ups when we were doing layups, and I was throwing him up," Moreau said. "We just thought we would do it during the game."

"We talked about it at practice this week, and I said, 'Later on in the game, if I'm cherry-picking, Ross, get down there,'" Henderson said. "He was down there standing, and he threw me up, and it was there, so it worked pretty good."

The Henderson dunk was the highlight of a high-scoring and fast-paced boys game that the South team won 120-90.

For the inaugural event at Saltsburg High School, the top seniors at Heritage Conference schools were split into North and South teams. Players from Homer-Center, Marion Center, Northern Cambria, Penns Manor and Purchase Line represented the North while players from Blairsville, Laurel Valley, Ligonier Valley, Saltsburg and United represented the South.

"I thought it was great for the Heritage Conference and great for the seniors," said United's Bill Clevenger, head coach for the South. "The boys (teams) were really strong this year. It was a strong senior class throughout the Heritage Conference."

The game, which was played in 20-minute halves, featured a lot of baskets at a fast pace. Each team usually took a shot within 15 seconds after gaining possession, and the game's first timeout didn't occur until 12:30 had passed in the first half.

The South never trailed during the entire game and was led by four players who scored at least 20 points. The United duo of Moreau and Bobby Simon led the scoring with 24 points apiece, while Blairsville's Justin McGinnis added 23 and Laurel Valley's Patrick Hall 20.

In one of the more exciting parts of the game, McGinnis, who made seven 3-pointers in the game, had an impromptu 3-point duel with Homer-Center's Garrett Sisak in the middle of the second half. In a 30-second span, four straight possessions ended with a 3-pointer, two by Sisak and two by McGinnis, with no missed shots. Sisak tried to make it five in a row, but he finally missed a triple.

Penns Manor's Chris Gahagan led the North with 19 points, followed by Northern Cambria's Jesse Carnevali (17), and Homer-Center's Aaron Lenzi (14) and Mike Walker (12).

Late in the second half, it became evident that the score mattered little as both teams continued to have fun despite a large double-digit lead for the South. Shortly before assisting Henderson, Moreau had a dunk of his own, and several others were tried but none converted.

"It was a blast," Walker said of the game. "Seeing Ross dunk was pretty sweet, seeing Ross pick Brock up was even sweeter. That kind of stuff, that's something you're going to remember for a long time. It doesn't matter if we won or lost."

In the girls game, the North scored three consecutive baskets in the final minute, all off turnovers, to defeat the South, 32-28.

The contest, which was played in the regular four-quarter format, had the look and feel of an exhibition game until the fourth quarter when the tempo picked up, leading to the exciting final minute of action.

Blairsville's Heather Beskid put the South ahead 28-26 when she connected on a jump shot with 1:41 to go. However, with about 50 seconds remaining, Purchase Line's Corissa McLaughlin stole the ball for the North and went all the way for a game-tying layup.

On the South's next possession, McLaughlin stole it again, which led to a basket for Purchase Line's Kasey Rorabaugh that gave a two-point lead to the North. With 12 seconds to go, Rorabaugh scored again off another turnover by the South, which clinched the four-point North victory.

"We didn't have a true guard out on the floor, a ballhandler," said Ligonier Valley's Paul Dominic, the head coach for the South. "All these girls are pretty much forwards or (wing players), and it showed at the end there, ... but the girls really showed their stuff. I was proud of them."

Beskid scored a game-high 10 points for the South. Marion Center's Kellie Ruffner led the North with nine points.

The North squad made 13 field goals for the game, six of which came in the final period.

"We were playing for fun, but then we saw the other team, they were playing (to win), and we were like 'Let's have one last win,'" said North guard Kayla Steffee, of Homer-Center. "It wasn't really on our minds, but as the game wore on, we wanted to win."

Homer-Center's Tom Lasher, head coach for the North, said it was nice to win, but the most important thing was for the players to have fun with the game.

"Even when we were losing, I asked them if they were still having fun, and they said yes," Lasher said. "The whole key to this thing is we just wanted it to be fun for the kids, and I think they had fun."

Blairsville's Leslie Webster, who hit a 3-pointer for the South, said she thinks the All-Star game is a great idea and would like to see it continue.

"It was definitely the most fun I've ever had, more than the regular season," she said. "It was fun to play with new people. ... I was excited to play one last time."

In between the two games, there was a 3-point and free throw shooting contest for both the boys and girls.

The winners of the 3-point shooting contest were Jordan Stiles, Northern Cambria, and Whitney Shearer, Saltsburg. The winners of the free-throw shooting contest were Chris Gahagan, Penns Manor, and Jessica Nealey, Homer-Center.

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