GREENSBORO — North Carolina recruit Shannon Smith forced the East all-star squad to change its attack, but the East's inability to climb out of an early hole sealed its fate.
The West all-stars held on for a 62-55 win Monday at the Greensboro Coliseum in the annual N.C. Coaches Association girls basketball all-star game.
The East trailed by 15 in the first half but fought back to tie the score at 53 with 4:31 to play. Kelsey Harris gave the West the lead for good, however, on a three-point play, and the East squad managed just two more points the rest of the way.
"It just felt like we were clawing out of a hole all night," said East head coach Danielle Blackburn of Wakefield, who played in the 1991 edition of the game. "We had some chances down by one with the ball but couldn't get the lead. We felt like if we'd have taken the lead it would have changed things, but we never got ahead."
A free throw by Amber Nichols of Broughton pulled the East within 42-41 with 2:52 to play in the third quarter. And after Nichols missed her second free throw, Kayla Harris of Wakefield grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled. But both of those free-throw attempts bounced off the rim. On the East's next trip downcourt, four shots inside the paint all missed the mark.
The West squad, which was led by game MVP Smith's 15 points and five assists, scored the next five points, putting the East back in another hole it finally got out of at 52-all.
"We tried to take advantage of it when Smith wasn't in there and press," said the East's Kristen Lyon of Durham Jordan. "We forced some turnovers, but it seemed like we gave them back as well when we needed to score."
Katie Paschal led the East with 10 points, and Kayla Harris had seven. Northern Durham's Nashika Williams (an N.C. State recruit), Wake Forest-Rolesville's Rena Wakama and Nichols finished with six points each. Williams topped the East with 10 rebounds, and Athens Drive graduate Markeisha Gatling added eight.