CHAMPAIGN — Dennis Hightower was the king of the all-star court Sunday, but even the Danville High School athlete had trouble telling who was the game's best player.
Asked for his pick as most valuable player in the inaugural News-Gazette/Parkland College All-Area Boys' All-Star basketball game, Hightower said, "anyone could have gotten it."
Those charged with making the decision selected Hightower, who led his Green team to a come-from-behind 91-88 triumph before an estimated 750 spectators at Parkland.
Despite the prolific scoring production, Green coach Chad Benedict, from Mahomet-Seymour, thought it was a final-minute play on the defensive end that might have been the game's key.
The 6-foot Hightower stood his ground as Corvon Butler, a 6-5 forward from Champaign Central, tried to add to his 30-point total with 38.7 seconds left and the Green team holding onto a slender 86-85 lead. Hightower drew the charge near the baseline.
"Little things like that win games," Hightower said.
Benedict couldn't have been happier.
"Before the game, we told the kids four goals," he said. "The last was to take a charge because you don't see many of those taken in all-star games."
Green teammate Devin Carter, from Centennial, drew a first-half charge.
Both teams hit an identical number of field goals (34) and the same number of three-pointers (four). The difference came at the free throw line. The Green squad sank 19 of 23 attempts while the Black converted 16 of 27.
In the final 31.6 seconds, Hightower hit a free throw to finish a three-point play and M-S' Reid Farchmin was 2 for 2 from the line, creating what was the final score after the Black team missed three three-point tries in the last 15 seconds.
"It's good when a game comes down to a last-second shot," said Black head coach Brett Frerichs, from Rantoul, "and I'll take my chances with (Bismarck-Henning's) Tanner Ribbe from the corner. He'll make the shot more times than not."
Ribbe and Rantoul's Travis Britt were the Black players with the late shots from three-point range.
Benedict hopes Sunday's contest is the first of many in what he'd like to see become an annual series.
"It's a great thing for Champaign-Urbana-area basketball," Benedict said. "It's great to see the small-school kids with the big-school kids. I hope it catches fire."
As for his role, Benedict said, "There wasn't much coaching involved. It was basically just making substitutions."
Carter scored 15 points for the Green and shared the team lead in rebounding (seven) with P.J. Blissit, from Urbana. Britt and Aaron Larson, from Unity, each scored 13 points for the Black, which held a 43-33 first-half lead. Britt grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.