It’s an experiment that has true benefit and merit, but also one with a big hill to climb before permanent implementation throughout...
With a trophy in her hand, Casie Johnson smiled shyly as the crowd at Kids Unlimited acknowledged her efforts with applause.
"I'm not good at interviews," the Eagle Point senior post said moments later as she spoke with a media member.
No need for words — Johnson let her shot do the talking in the fourth quarter of the sixth annual Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic on Saturday, scoring nine of her 15 points to start the period and give the Siskiyous the juice they needed to finish off a 73-61 win over the Rogues.
Johnson was given most valuable player honors — and the shiny accolade — afterward.
"This was my third year playing and we've won every year, so I didn't want to lose," she said.
Down the stretch, Johnson's competitive fire burned strongest.
With her squad holding a four-point lead entering the final frame, she rattled off the Siskiyous' opening nine points. Her buckets proved crucial as the Rogues — which trailed by 13 after the first quarter — continued their climb back into the wild contest that pits the top talents in Southern Oregon against one another.
South Medford freshman Julissa Tago, who scored a game-high 18 points, helped deny the Rogue's comeback bid with a pair of flashy layups (one off a steal) late. The Siskiyous, which have won the past two all-star games after the Rogues captured the first four, closed things out with an 8-0 run to end the possibility of further dramatics.
For her first all-star game, Tago looked like a veteran. She had 13 points by halftime using an elite-level arsenal.
"Actually it was really fun for me," Tago said. "Because every game during the season it's like down to business, we've got to get the win and it's more about getting your teammates involved and all of that. In all-star games, you can do whatever you want. It's just a lot of fun.
One of her fourth-quarter baskets was a layin where she wrapped the ball around her body on a fastbreak and finished with her left, or off, hand.
"I've been doing that move since the sixth grade," Tago said.
St. Mary's 5-foot-3 junior Emily Alvarez and North Medford senior post McKensey Peters did their best to rally the Rogues, scoring 19 and 13 points, respectively. Alvarez had 12 at halftime.
Fans voted for the starters online and Peters generated the most with 5,535. There were 22,472 ballots cast over eight days.
South Medford senior Kylie Towry and junior teammate Ashley Bolston added 10 points each for the Rogues, who trailed 40-35 at halftime.
Peters' bucket down low evened the score at 42 with 5:17 left in the third quarter, and Alvarez gave the Rogues a two-point lead about a minute later on a drive. But the Siskiyous recaptured their advantage and were ahead 52-48 heading into the final eight minutes.
That's when Johnson went to work. College of the Siskiyous' Tom Powers — Johnson's future college coach and the leader of the all-star squad — looked on with pleasure as Johnson's smooth-as-silk jumper put her team ahead 61-53.
Towry's bucket with 2:13 remaining made it a four-point contest, but the Siskiyous finished with the 8-0 run.
St. Mary's Lillian Martin and Ashland's Georgia Williams had nine points apiece for the Siskiyous.
"It's really cool to meet other girls who have the same passion as you and love basketball," Tago said. "It's cool talking to them and seeing different personalities."
SISKIYOUS (73) — Georgia Williams 9, Delanie Tally 5, Kenzie Schmoll 2, Tamika Funk 0, Julissa Tago 18, Brittaney Scott 3, Casie Johnson 15, Lillian Martin 9, Yaremi Mejia 7, Alaina Thomson 5. Totals: 27 14-22 73.
ROGUES (61) — Heather Lass 2, Kylie Towry 10, Jazmine Hancock 0, Emily Alvarez 19, Ashley Bolston 10, Baylee Toney 2, McKensey Peters 13, Sydney May 4, Becca Heard 1, Morgan Hansen 0. Totals: 24 9-15 61.
Siskiyous 24 16 12 21 — 73
Rogues 11 24 13 13 — 61
3-point goals — Siskiyous 5 (Tally 1, Scott 1, Martin 2, Thomson 1), Rogues 4 (Towry 2, Alvarez 2).
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org