FAIRFIELD — The pregame warmups and the last minute of the fourth quarter descended into a slam dunk contest.
The rest of it was basketball game with one team playing decidedly better, especially in the rebounding department.
The Monticello Empire League boys team held a 67-45 edge on the boards and the Solano County Athletic Conference couldn’t respond as the former cruised to an 85-56 win in the MEL-SCAC All-Star game at Ronald D. Thompson Gymnasium, Thursday.
“That was fun, man,” said Vanden’s Micheal Holloway, the SCAC coach. “We just let the kids get out here and go up and down the floor. I didn’t want to take it too serious and overcoach. I let them do what they do.”
So did Rodriguez’s Nate Rankin, the MEL coach, with a twist.
“I thought the kids had fun,” Rankin said. “We challenged them to have fun and represent the MEL, and they did it.”
Especially over the last three quarters.
After the MEL scored the game’s first five points, the SCAC netted the six to take its first lead on a runner in the lane by Fairfield’s Javon Adams.
After Rodriguez’s Keanu Williams tied it by hitting one of two free throws, Bethel’s Marc Williams drained a 3-pointer from the left corner, only to have Keanu Williams match it with a trey from the right corner.
After matching baskets, Marc Williams gave the SCAC its last lead at 14-11 with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
With the score tied at 14, Will C. Wood’s Darius Washington put the MEL ahead to stay with a putback with less than a second remaining in the first quarter, foreshadowing a rebounding edge that would build as the game progressed.
The MEL used an early 8-0 in the second quarter to go up by 10 for the first time.
Fairfield’s Sean Gray stopped the bleeding with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, only to have Rodriguez’s Armani Reed, a late addition to the MEL roster, nail back-to-back bombs, the second deep enough to make Stephen Curry weep.
The SCAC briefly got back into the game by scoring the next six points, cutting the deficit to 32-25, but the MEL held a 41-32 lead at the break and was ready to take off.
After Fairfield’s DeMoriaye Hart-Spikes opened the second-half scoring with a dunk, a Reed 3-pointer started the MEL on a 12-3 surge that again put the lead into double digits at 53-37.
At one point the MEL scored on a second putback attempt – Wood’s Cameron Moore getting the basket – prompting Holloway to shout “Where’s everybody at?”
The MEL enjoyed a 22-10 rebounding edge in the period, outscoring the SCAC 27-10 to take a 68-42 lead into final 8 minutes.
“They hurt us with their size,” Holloway said. “We matched them athletically. Not only were they athletic, they had size – and they hit a lot of 3s.”
The only suspense in the fourth quarter was whether the MEL would win by 30 or more. It led by as many as 34 twice, the last at 81-47 after a layup by Vacaville’s Chance Pippin, but the SCAC closed things out on a 9-4 run to cut the final margin to 29.
“We challenged them (to play defense),” Rankin said. “That’s one of the things the kids committed to. . . . I’m proud of the kids.”
Reed led all scorers with 18 points, while Vacaville’s Sam Gabbard and Napa’s Ryan Imhoff had nine, Pippin, Moore and Keanu Williams had eight, and Washington had seven.
Armijo’s Tyree Carrie added six, with Rodriguez’s Tim Moore and Rishod Abraham, and Vintage’s Michael Sedgley each scoring four. Napa’s Alex Randal also played for the MEL.
Hart-Spikes led a balanced SCAC attack with 14, followed by Adams and Marc Williams with 12 and Vallejo’s Devin Bracey with 10. Also scoring were Gray with three, Fairfield’s Maurice Trotter and Benicia’s Derek Johnstone with two, and American Canyon’s Joshua Williams with one.Vallejo’s Danzil White also played for the SCAC.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.