MISHAWAKA – In all of their different ways, the four area girls chosen for the McDonald’s Michiana All-Star Game were both prepared for one final spotlight basketball game this year.
In all four cases, this wasn’t a final hurrah.
Three seniors and a junior from the IFN coverage area were part of the showcase game, bringing together some of the top girls and boys basketball talent to the Wiekamp Center on the campus of Bethel College. Seniors Maddie Ryman of Warsaw, Casey Schroeder of Wawasee and Sophie Bussard of Tippecanoe Valley as well as junior Maddy Payne of NorthWood all took part in the game Tuesday evening on the same Red roster made up of primarily players from southern and eastern Michiana high schools. For all three seniors, it was a precursor to what’s to come. For Payne, it was a chance to see how the other side lives.
The game itself showcased an expected uptick in scoring, with the Gray team beating Red 89-81. Northridge’s Morgan Litwiller led the Gray team with 21 points and St. Joe’s Keegan Sullivan added 16 points and 17 rebounds. KK Weaver of Mishawaka Marian led the Red team with 19 points and LaPorte’s Riley Ott had 17 points.
“This was such a fun experience playing against a bunch of girls I’ve only heard about,” Schroeder said. “I liked the flow of this game. I know a lot of these girls are going to be playing in college, and I’m excited to get there and play at a higher level.”
Schroeder, who signed with Indiana University Kokomo, was part of a third rotation and was 1-2 from the floor for two points and added a steal.
Ryman, with her soon-to-be Grace College coach Dan Davis watching with her former Warsaw coaches Lenny Krebs and Jack Beer all in attendance, also liked the pace of the exhibition game. Ryman, who made a name for herself with the D and 3 playing mentality, did hit one from range and finished with five points while also recording a steal in nearly 15 minutes of play.
“This was fun, and I love playing in a faster pace, so getting to use some of my speed on a longer college court was nice,” Ryman said. “I had a lot of looks that I normally didn’t get before, where defenders weren’t right up on me, so I had a chance to drive a little more. But I like shooting the three, so I did a little of that, too.”
Bussard looked very comfortable in the showcase despite a very un-Sophie-like 1-7 performance from the floor and just 2-6 from the free throw line for just four points. After scoring nearly 17 per game for the Vikings this past season, Bussard didn’t attribute anything in particular to her abnormal game. It was just a chance to play basketball again without any pressure.
“The basketball IQ that’s out here is high and it’s cool,” Bussard said, who is going to Division I Southeast Missouri State in the fall. “Everyone kind of knows where they are supposed to be, it makes it fun to play. This was a little different because I didn’t have to play with weight on my shoulders and get triple teamed. I could just flow through my teammates and not have to worry about scoring a bunch of points. It was more about the relationships with the girls and having fun.
“I’ll admit, I did kind of miss not having everything go through me, but it’s an all-star game and everybody was out here to have fun.”
While the seniors all got a taste of what the next level will start to look like, Payne got to experience the exhibition with one more year left at NorthWood. She couldn’t have been more alert.
“This was a lot of fun being around the girls and playing the game you love,” said Payne, who finished with four points and 10 rebounds. “The girls were a lot of fun to be around. We played a lot of these teams during the high school season so I’m aware of how good they are. This was a nice chance for me to play with a lot of girls that have superior talent.”
The boys game was less about staying within oneself and more about putting on a show, a game that ended 141-138 in favor of the Gray team. The game winner came in sudden death on a three-pointer made by Marian superstar Jaden Ivey, who finished with 25 points, one of seven on the roster to finish in double figures. Washington’s Demarcus Vaughn had 27 points and Riley’s Gabe Johnson had 24 points while Grace College-bound Hank Smith from Elkhart Memorial finished with 10 points and five assists. Goshen’s Bryant Robinson added 12 points and eight boards.
For the Red squad, St. Joe’s JR Konieczny and Penn’s Noah Applegate both scored 39 points, Applegate adding 19 rebounds. Concord’s Michael Johnson added 16 points and Northridge’s Jackson Erekson had eight points.