SOMONAUK – For one night they went from rivals to teammates.
Hinckley-Big Rock’s Bernie Conley, Micheal Bayler and Mitch Ruh teamed up with Indian Creek’s Jaron Todd and other Little Ten Conference top basketball seniors Saturday night at Somonauk High School.
The 31st annual Leland Lions Club All-Star Shootout gave the four players a chance to combine their skills in hopes of breaking the Interstate Eight Conference’s five-game winning streak in the event, and they did it in exhilarating fashion.
Conley’s steal and assist with three seconds left with his club down two led to Newark’s All-Stater Brett Anderson’s three-pointer to give the LTC a come-from-behind 89-87 victory. Anderson was fouled on the shot and made the free throw, while the I-8 saw its potential tying shot come up short at the final horn.
“It’s not the way we drew it up in the timeout, but we wanted to pressure them and I was able to get the steal,” said Conley, who scored seven points and handed out four assists. “I took a dribble and had nowhere to go, but I was able to find Brett wide open. I don’t know why they left him open, but it worked out pretty good.”
The LTC trailed by five with 15 seconds left, but Ruh’s huge trey from the top of the key with 7.4 seconds remaining gave his team a chance in the final moments.
“We thought we had a pretty good team coming in and had a good chance to win this game,” said Ruh, who scored eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and grabbed four rebounds “We had a bunch of good shooters, defenders and hard workers, but to get the win is a great feeling.”
Todd netted eight points and had a pair of steals in the contest, but it was his long 3 from the wing with 3:40 to go in the game that gave the LTC their first lead since early in the third quarter and closed out an 8-0 run.
“It was great to go out there and play with them and not against them,” Todd said on playing with the guys from H-BR. “It was a good experience to get to play with guys you’ve gone against the last couple of years. It was a crazy game, a lot of shooting and a ton of three-pointers. The coaches stressed defense, they thought we could force turnovers and get out and score and we were able to do that.”
Ruh noted it was a nice change of pace to work together with guys they’ve battled against in the past, while Bayler said playing with the IC guard was different but fun.
“When you are playing against (Todd) you’re begging him not to shoot it, but tonight you’re saying ‘shoot it’ and hoping it goes in,” Bayler said. “You’re plotting all season on how to stop the other guys from the Little Ten, so it was so fun to be on the same team with these guys and work together.”
Bayler reflected on the chance he had to play one more time with his Royals teammates.
“We’ve been playing together since we were really little so to get another chance to play with them meant the world to me,” he said. “It was a special night that’s for sure.”
In the girls game the LTC lead by two heading to the fourth, but the I-8 used a 13-5 fourth quarter to earn a 49-43 victory. Hiawatha’s Dani Clark had seven points to lead local players in the game, while Lady Hawk teammate Ashley Tamraz had two. Indian Creek’s Kate Thuestad netted four points and H-BR’s Abbie Tosch had a hoop and grabbed six rebounds.