CHICAGO, Ill. - It’s not often that any type of All-American game or All-Star contest offers up some memorable basketball. The 2012 McDonald’s All-American game wasn’t textbook fundamental from a playing standpoint but it was better than most and the finish gave folks a reason to stay in their seats until the final buzzer. Tennessee bound 6-2 forward Bashaara Graves from Clarksville, Tenn. connected on one of two free throws with 0.3 seconds on the clock to provide the East with a narrow 79 – 78 win in a game of runs that saw both teams have their moments.
The winning squad was led by Most Valuable Player Alexis Prince of Edgewater, Fla. The 6-2 Baylor commit finished the night with 15 points, 10 of which came in the first 20 minutes of play. Her 6 of 10 shooting from the floor was highlighted by a 3 for 3 effort behind the arch and for good measure she added nine rebounds for the evening. Prince had two other teammates joining her in double figures as West Virginia signee Bria Holmes of Hamden, Conn. finished with 13 and future Syracuse guard Brittney Sykes from University, N.J. added 12. While Graves served up the deciding free throw she struggled from the floor going just 2 for 10 but led the way on the glass with 12 rebounds including the final offensive board that led to her game winning trip to the line.
The West, who trailed by as much as 16, was paced by native Canadian and current Los Angeles resident Nirra Fields. The 5-9 UCLA bound guard lit it up from the floor connecting on 9 of her 11 field goal attempts while adding 2 of 3 free throws to lead all scorers with 20. Bolingbrook, Ill. Native and 6-2 forward Morgan Tuck had another hot hand chipping 18 points that included 8 of 12 shooting for the future UConn Husky. Her soon to be teammate in Storrs, Conn. Moriah Jefferson of Dallas, Texas was the only other player in double digits finishing with 10 points on the evening.
The East jumped out quickly from the tip stretching an early lead to as much as 11 before the West got their feet under them. Alexis Jones of MacArthur, Texas knocked down a three pointer for the West to cut the lead to three at the 14:06 mark but the East had another run in them before the half. Prince’s long ball and back to back lay ups gave them their largest margin of the game with 4:34 left when they led by 16. Fields got a small run going for the West allowing them to cut the lead to nine at the half, 40-31.
Cold shooting (33%) and turnovers (10) played a big part in the West’s uphill climb in the first half. The East didn’t scorch the nets themselves but their 38% effort and a 30 – 23 rebound margin in their favor provided enough of a cushion to carry the lead throughout the entire period.
A 17 – 10 run to open the second half led to the evening’s first tie at the 13:55 mark. Fields fueled the run with eight of her 20 while Graves came through with six to help knot things up at 50 apiece. Both teams enjoyed a couple of small runs before the East stretched the lead back out to eight. Once again the West responded whittling the lead down to one and ultimately getting their third tie of the game on a pair of free throws from Kent, Washington’s Katie Collier with just 16 seconds on the clock. Alexis Prince’s jumper out of a time out didn’t drop but Graves pulled in the rebound and was fouled on the follow up. The 6-2 forward made the first of two and the subsequent miss ran off the fraction of a second left and the last hopes of the West.
Ironically, after their cold first half, the West warmed up to the tune of 46% in the second while outscoring their opponents by eight over the final 20 minutes in a losing effort. The East controlled the boards 56 – 49 including 19 on the offensive end of the floor. For an All-Star game the turnovers were surprisingly limited with the West finishing with 17 and the East giving away one more for 18.
Breanna Stewart, the 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year Award winner, suffered through a scoreless first half but posted seven key points the final 3:30 that helped hold the West at bay. A long distance three and a lethal jump hook took the wind out of the West’s sails at critical points down the stretch. The UConn signee from North Syracuse, N.Y. finished with nine and added six rebounds.
Mark Lewis is a national evaluator and photographer for Blue Star Basketball as well as the lead columnist for Blue Star Media. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 Division I assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and Washington State. Lewis also serves as a member of the prestigious McDonald’s All-American selection committee.