By Rich Polikoff
Special to the Commercial
FAYETTEVILLE — Chelsey Rhodes got the East off to a good start.
Rhodes scored the first basket of the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Girls Basketball All-Star Game on Wednesday, a three-pointer. Rhodes, a graduated senior from Monticello, scored five points to go with a rebound and a block in the first quarter, and the East pulled away for a 75-59 victory over the West in a five-quarter game at Bud Walton Arena.
“Delta State is getting a great player in Chelsey Rhodes,” said East coach Rusty Garner of Harding Academy. “She has a great attitude and had a big smile all the time, and she’s also a great basketball player. She’s going to make somebody very happy.”
Rhodes led the East in scoring, finishing the game with 10 points. She had two steals and a block.
“I was a little nervous starting off,” Rhodes said. “[The first basket] got the jitters out. We played as a team, for the most part, and that got us the edge.”
Like Rhodes, Shabr’an Richardson of Dumas started the game, played the entire first quarter and had a big impact. She blocked three shots and scored three points — all on free throws — in the first quarter, and grabbed a rebound. At the end of one quarter, the East led 12-8, with Rhodes and Richardson accounting for eight of those 12 points.
“Richardson showed us the first day that she’s got something to her,” Garner said. “Alabama A&M is getting a good player. She hits the glass, she’s tough, she’s physical, and she gets to the free-throw line. She puts the defender in bad situations.”
Richardson finished the game with five points, four rebounds and three blocks. The three blocks led all players, and matched the entire output of the West’s roster.
Richardson was named the East’s most outstanding player.
“Oh my gosh, there’s so many talented girls out there,” Richardson said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play hard. I was surprised [to win the award], but I wanted to go out there, work hard and bring something back to my community.”
Juquecia Cheney of Star City didn’t play in either of the first two quarters, but made her presence felt when she started the third quarter on the floor. Cheney had a steal that led to a transition basket by Russellville’s Mary Carol Davis midway through the second quarter, putting the East ahead 26-25.
A minute later, Cheney grabbed a rebound and went coast to coast, finger-rolling in a layup that put the East up 31-27, its largest lead of the period. A layup by Michaela Thompson of Viola at the third-quarter buzzer made it 35-31 in favor of the East.
Halftime came following the third quarter, and all three area players saw time on the floor in the fourth quarter, in which the East pushed its lead to 54-46. The East then put it away with a strong fifth quarter, going 11 of 12 at the free-throw line.
The East outrebounded the West 26-20 after halftime.
“I thought the kids were a little bit more patient getting to the rim and we were able to get some good shots [after the break],” Garner said. “Really, though, the difference was we were getting outrebounded at the half and we’re the bigger team. We rebounded much better and gave ourselves a chance on the offensive end.”
The West led just a handful of times in the game, all coming late in the second or early in the third quarters. A three-pointer by Jessica Flanery gave the West its first lead, 17-16, and its largest lead came when Charleston’s Katherine West sank a three-pointer with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter, making it 25-22.
Flanery was the West’s most outstanding player. Melissa Wolff of Cabot, an Arkansas signee, was named the most valuable player, finishing with nine points and a game-high six rebounds.