What an encore: Hall named MVP, again

What an encore: Hall named MVP, again

CHAMPAIGN — How would Mikala Hall follow up a Most Valuable Player performance in Saturday's Battle of the Border girls' basketball game against athletes from Indiana?

She didn't have to wait long for an answer during Sunday's Parkland College/News-Gazette All-Area All-Star girls' contest.

The Danville senior produced a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double lifting Team Gold to a 62-47 victory over Team Black at Dodds Athletic Center and earning her second MVP honor in as many days.

"I felt really good," said Hall, who soon will head to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville to continue her hoops career. "I love getting back on the floor again with the hype and excitement. It's my last game in the area, so it's fun."

Hall did much of her damage in the latter two quarters, posting eight points and eight rebounds in that span. Backed by the post presence of Iroquois West' Meara Tilstra and the deep-shooting prowess of Cissna Park's Gabby Wessels and Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Liberty Jamison, Hall's efforts proved the tilting point in the all-senior showcase.

"We had a nice team," said Gold coach Barry Bauer, also Watseka's leader. "Every time we put five out there, I thought they played pretty well. And then I'd look down the bench and there was two or three of them I thought, 'I probably need to get her in the game. She's a good player.'"

Wessels finished with 10 points, while Jamison and Tilstra each netted nine in addition to Tilstra pulling down seven boards. But none of those three nor Hall delivered what was arguably the highlight of the event.

With time ticking down in the third period, Team Gold deployed a defensive wall to generate one last offensive possession. The result was a Team Black turnover to the hands of Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond's Hannah Wallen, who turned and drained a line-drive three-pointer to raucous applause.

"Got down to 15 seconds, so we just said press real quick," Bauer said. "We got a deflection, and that was kind of an exciting play."

Centennial's Shoente'ra Russell paced Team Black with nine points and was complemented by seven points apiece from Mahomet-Seymour's Erin Lenschow and Clinton's Madi Filkin.

This experience was a unique one for Russell, who will trade in Charger blue and white for Parkland gold and green next school year as a member of Mike Lindemann's Cobras.

"I was already here doing open gyms, so I was pretty used to it," Russell said. "I wasn't going to play AAU, so I didn't want to wait until Parkland's season to start playing."

Russell and Hall soaked in the moment after the final horn sounded. They'd competed against one another not only in this exhibition, but also in a halftime three-point contest, which was won by St. Thomas More's Hayes Murray.

That wasn't exactly the way they wanted things to play out, by Russell's admission.

"We were actually hoping to be on the same team," she said. "So we said we're not going to guard each other and be more of a one-on-one game instead of a five-on-five."

Hall, meanwhile, will head to Edwardsville this summer, starting her training with Paula Buscher's program in July. While Hall is proud of the body of work she put together with the Vikings, she's also ready for her next journey.

"They're committed to their program and put their all into all the players they have on their team," Hall said. "I believe in them, and they believe I can go there and lead and set the tone for the program."