Girls All-Stars: Black runs away with win
CHAMPAIGN — Danielle Cooley developed a game plan, and then she didn't deviate.
Every 3 minutes, she sent five different players from her Black team into the game during Sunday's first News-Gazette/Parkland College All-Area Girls' All-Star contest at Parkland.
"I helped coach in the Heart of Illinois (all-star) game and I know it's easy to get out of basketball shape," said Cooley, who directed LeRoy High School to a fourth-place finish in February's Class 1A state tournament.
"We figured we couldn't go long in a fast-paced game on a college court."
Green coach Tim Kohlbecker, from Tuscola, reached the same conclusion when he surveyed those on his 10-player squad during a pregame shootaround to see how many had picked up a ball since the high school season ended.
"None had played much," Kohlbecker said.
It turned out to be one of Cooley's LeRoy players who emerged as the game's top star. Ashley Walker hit all nine shots she took from the field and was 4 for 5 from the free throw line, scoring a game-high 22 points to lead the Black to a decisive 92-63 triumph in front of an estimated 750 spectators at Parkland.
Walker hit the floor running.
"I'm in track and it kept me in shape," she said after accepting her award as the most valuable player.
"I've been looking forward to this game."
While Walker's accuracy was unparalleled, Cooley noted, "she did what she can do, but we had a great group to set her up."
Hannah Millington, from Argenta-Oreana, had 17 points for the Black, Blue Ridge's Jacquelyn O'Neal added 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting and Danville's J'Lynn Ayers — a Parkland College recruit — had the day's only double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Champaign Central's Cheyenne Hedrington had the most impressive half, grabbing all 11 of her rebounds after intermission. The John Wood-bound athlete scored nine points.
The Green team had two double-figure scorers. They were from the same high school program and will remain teammates next year. Danville Area Community College recruits Lori Haas and Samantha Siddens, from Bismarck-Henning, each scored 12 points. Oakwood's Makenzie Baker led the Green team with nine rebounds.
Kohlbecker didn't put restrictions on his squad.
"We wanted to showcase the players, let them play equal amounts, shoot the shots they like to shoot and have fun with it," said Kohlbecker, who called the Black team's post presence the biggest difference.
"They had too much inside. They were tougher, more physical and better rebounders."
Sam Kohlbecker gave the Green team its lone lead, 5-4, 3:12 into the game, but a three-point play by Walker 12 seconds later started the Black team on its way to leads that eventually rose to 29 points.