It was the Dark team that shined the brightest Friday night in the Northeast Nebraska All-Star Boys Basketball Game at the Cox Activities Center.
Matthew Becker posted a game-high 19 points and Cole Belitz chipped in 17 to lead four Dark players in double figures to outlast the Light team 85-80 Friday night on the Northeast Community College campus.
“It was really fun because, I don't know, it was so chill,” Belitz said. “During the season, you can never be that relaxed, so it's just really nice to go out there and have a bunch of fun with friends.”
Friday's exhibition came down to a pair of scoring runs – a 17-0 stretch that included nine-straight points by Belitz himself in the first half, and an 11-0 run in the third quarter.
“We had a nice run in that second quarter,” said Dark coach Tom Meyer of Winside. “Cole from Neligh did a nice job of getting a couple of steals and some run-outs. He had a nice two-minute stretch there to get us the lead.”
Becker, a recent graduate of Hartington Cedar Catholic, added some highlight-reel plays, including a first-half dunk, and added four rebounds and two assists on his way to being named the Dark team player of the game. Becker scored seven of his game-high 19 points in the opening quarter.
“The coaches just said you know how to play, so just play as a team, but do your thing,” Becker said. “It's awesome. You don't get to do that very often. You've got to take advantage of it.”
In addition, Belitz of Neligh-Oakdale and Izac Reifenrath of Laurel-Concord-Coleridge each hit three 3-pointers on the night. Belitz finished with 17 points, Reifenrath added 11 and Sam Mailloux – a Pender graduate – tallied 10. Landon Wieseler of Wynot added nine and Connor Clayton of Norfolk High chipped in seven.
But even with those stretches on its side, the Dark team still needed some clutch shots late.
Francisco Perez, who was the Light MVP with a team-best 14 points, drained a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 36 seconds left that put his squad within 80-76. Almost a minute later, Belitz had the answer with his third 3 of the night.
“I guess it was pretty big,” Belitz said. “I didn't know what the score was at that point. I was open, so I pulled it. It's an all-star game. You've got to shoot.”
Mailloux proceeded to help shut the Light team down from there. He added the Dark team's final basket with 1:35 left, and after Perez found Grady Semin for two with 1:12 left to make it 85-80, Mailloux came up with back-to-back defensive rebounds as the Light team held on for the win.
In addition to Perez, the Light team also had Blake Hoke of Clearwater-Orchard with 12 points. Josh Brester of Howells-Dodge and Tanner Wietfeld of North Bend Central each added nine. Every one of the Light players finished with at least four points.
“Our message to our guys was to go have fun. When you get your shot, take it, and if you get a chance, be aggressive,” said Light coach Todd Hale of Atkinson West Holt. “We were trying to get them to go to the boards hard, because you can pick up a lot of points in this kind of a game if you just go to the boards.”
As the score would suggest, defense was optional much of the night. The teams combined to make as many 3-pointers as free throws attempted (17).
“You go fast, and then on defense, you can take a break, but during the season, you can't,” Belitz said.
Dark 26 24 21 14 – 85
Light 23 17 17 23 – 80
DARK ALL-STARS: Landon Wieseler (Wynot) 4 0-0 9; Connor Clayton (Norfolk High) 3 0-0 7; Ethan Sattler (Stuart) 2 0-0 4; Cole Belitz (Neligh-Oakdale) 7 0-0 17; Merrix Denn (Osmond) 2 3-3 7; Jack Marsden (Norfolk Catholic) 0 1-2 1; Izac Reifenrath (Laurel-Concord-Coleridge) 4 0-0 11; Matthew Becker (Hartington Cedar Catholic) 9 0-0 19; Blake Anderson (West Point-Beemer) 0 0-0 0; Sam Mailloux (Pender) 5 0-0 10. Totals: 35 4-5 85.
LIGHT ALL-STARS: Keaton Hendren (Madison) 2 0-0 4; John Emanuel (North Bend Central) 2 0-0 5; Josh Brester (Howells-Dodge) 3 1-2 9; Blake Hoke (Clearwater-Orchard) 5 0-0 12; Turner Beller (Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family) 3 0-0 6; Grady Semin (O'Neill St. Mary's) 3 0-0 7; Solomon Peitz (Wakefield) 3 1-2 7; Tanner Wietfeld (North Bend Central) 4 0-2 9; Francisco Perez (O'Neill) 5 3-4 14; Brad Hartnett (South Sioux City) 3 1-2 7. Totals: 33 6-12 80.