The shots were falling most of the night for Maliah Howard-Bass.
But with the Gold team needing a 3-pointer to tie in the closing seconds, the Columbus North senior’s contested 3 fell well short. That allowed the Green team to hang on for a 79-76 win in the Third Annual All-Area All-Star Game at Columbus Christian.
The game, which featured players from The Republic’s All-Area team, benefited Columbus Christian student Levi Sallee, who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury.
The Green trailed by as many as nine in the first half and six early in the second half. But Columbus East junior Britney Ballard hit three 3-pointers in a minute-and-a-half to give the Green their first lead at 40-39.
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“We kept telling ourselves we just need to stop a couple people, and we need to keep passing the ball around and eventually, we’re going to hit our shots,” said Ballard, who led the Green with 24 points. “That’s what we did in the second half, and we came back and we pulled it out.”
The Green led by as many as nine with 5½ minutes left in the game and still led 74-69 with 2:10 remaining. But a 3-pointer and a steal and layup by Howard-Bass tied the game at 74 with 1:28 left.
Green regained the lead on a free throw by Trinity Lutheran’s Whitney Rogers and two free throws by Brown County’s Aubrey Hollander. Howard-Bass scored to cut the lead to 77-76 with 44 seconds remaining, but Trinity’s Abby Hackman answered with 21 seconds left to make it a 3-point game.
Howard-Bass, an Indiana All-Star selection who is headed to Ball State, finished with a game-high 36 points and led the Gold with six rebounds.
“It’s all good with the points, but I think our teammates stepped up,” Howard-Bass said. “No. 5 (Trinity’s Morgan Gabbard) did really good. She came in clutch a couple of times. I’m proud of the whole team.”
Gabbard scored eight of her 11 points in the first quarter for the Gold. Also for Gold, East’s Claire Cunningham added 10 points and five rebounds, while Brown County’s Maddy Edds had eight points and North’s Jenna Borger grabbed five rebounds.
Rogers finished with 10 points for the Green. Hackman added nine points and 14 rebounds, and South Decatur’s Stacy Fox scored nine points.
“It’s my first (All-Star Game), and it was awesome,” Hackman said. ‘It’s kind of difficult when you don’t know anybody, but it’s also fun because you get to learn how everybody else plays and improve from it. (Winning) was probably the best part because I really hate losing.”
Fox’s mother, South Decatur coach Kelly Fox, guided the Green team. Former Columbus Christian standout Macy Wingham, who played in the inaugural All-Area All-Star Game in 2015, coached the Gold.
The game included players from North, East, Hauser, Jennings County, Brown County, South Decatur, Edinburgh, Trinity Lutheran and Columbus Christian.
“We all come together for one night, and we just play basketball,” Ballard said. “I think it’s a great experience for all of us to participate in.”