Being a bit of an outsider from Pierce County, Shay Brannon didn’t entirely know what to expect at Centralia College’s Southwest Washington Senior All-Star Game. Hearing the words “all-star game” conjures up images of the glorified layup lines that the NBA's showcase has become, after all. But once the ball tipped off, the senior out of Eatonville found himself in a true back-and-forth showdown between the best the area has to offer.
"I came into it not knowing that I was going to play defense," he said. "Like, ‘Let’s just shoot around and get dunks.’ But the coach is out there drawing up plays, and it’s like, ‘Wow, we’re really going at it.’"
Brannon managed to both go at it and bring the highlights, leading the A-Team to a 124-101 win over its 1B/2B counterparts with 29 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
The statline — leading all scorers and going 13 for 18 from the field — put the Cruiser star in line for an MVP nod, but a pair of high-flying slams sealed it, including an absolute poster in transition over an unfortunate Brodie Avalon that blew the roof off of a crowded Michael Smith Gymnasium.
“Honestly, I felt kind of bad,” Brannon said. “But at the same time, it was really good, because I haven’t done that before.”
The A’s filled out their statline behind Brannon, with all nine players scoring at least eight points, and eight finishing in double figures. Rochester’s Larenz Payne came in at 15 points, Castle Rock’s Trystin Marin had 14, and Tumwater’s Luke Brewer scored 13.
Despite all of the scoring and long-range shooting — the two sides combined to hit 17 3-pointers — the most intriguing battle came down low, with Morton-White Pass’ Josh Salguero and W.F. West’s Soren Dalan facing off for the opening tip-off, and then matching up against each other all night.
“It was fun,” Dalan said. “It was light-hearted. I’ve known Josh forever, we’ve played together, we’ve played against each other. It was fun, but we also competed.”
Both big men finished with double-doubles; Dalan had 12 points and 17 rebounds, while Salguero scored 17 points and added 11 boards to his line.
“I was just trying to have fun,” Salguero said. “I enjoyed this a lot. It was competitive, to where we were still playing to win, but I still had lots of fun.”
They also combined for seven blocks, and while Dalan only had two to Salguero’s five, one of those packing jobs came against his opposite number in the post.
Salguero did get one last laugh, pulling up and drilling a 3-pointer in the second half, while Dalan went 0 for 2 from range, and declined when the entire A Team begged him to try one more in the final seconds of the game.
“I already shot two, and it wasn’t going in,” he said with a laugh.
MWP’s Hunter Hazen led the B’s with 18 points and added seven rebounds. Wahkiakum’s Brodie Avalon came in at 16 points, and Pe Ell’s Kail Homan had 12. Oakville’s Ashton Boyd had eight points and four assists, Adna’s Asher Guerrero scored seven, and MWP’s Jake Cournyer had six points and a game-high seven helpers. Conner Olmstead out of Toledo had five points, as did Willapa Valley’s Riley Pearson, and Mossyrock’s Keegan Kolb rounded things out with four.
Listing off the rest of the A’s, Hoqiuam’s Michael Lorton-Watkins scored 12 points and had six assists, while his fellow Grizzly Justice Stankavich had 11 points, Tumwater’s Connor Hopkins had 10, and Eatonville’s Walker Bruun had scored eight.