Not long after the lights literally went out Thursday evening at Musgrove Fieldhouse, they did it figuratively, too.
After a brief power outage plunged the Sterling High School gym into darkness during the SVM All-Star Classic girls game, the Gazette boys team extinguished any hopes of the Telegraph squad with some dynamite shooting.
The Gazette hit 51 percent of its shots – including 41 percent of its 3-pointers – to pull away for a 95-74 victory.
"They shot lights out, man," Telegraph guard Jessie McKinley Jr. said. "I knew they were all pretty good shooters – I'd played with most of them before – but it seemed like they just couldn't miss."
Eastland's Skylar Paulson did the most damage from deep, hitting a game-high six 3s and leading all scorers with 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting to earn MVP honors. Cougar teammate Dalton Shaner, SVM's player of the year this past winter, added 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting and three assists.
"I was giving Dalton crap, telling him I really can shoot like that," Paulson said with a grin, "but I never got the opportunity because he was always doing all the shooting."
"I always knew he could shoot like that," Shaner said, "but it's only in the freedom of an all-star game where he'll do it. He was always so smart with his shot selection during high school games, so he used his strength inside instead."
Paulson kick-started the decisive run toward the end of the third quarter thanks to 3-pointers No. 3 & 4.
After Newman grad A.J. Sharp's deep 3 cut the Telegraph's deficit to 57-52 with 3:43 left in the third, Paulson answered with a 3 of his own. Rock Falls' Austin Donoho then hit one off a Paulson assist, and Paulson finished the mini-run with another 3 – off a Shaner assist – to push the Gazette lead back to 66-52 with 1:40 left in the quarter.
The Telegraph got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way, even with coach Ray Sharp finishing the stretch run with four of his Newman players on the court trying to run a full-court press.
"Coach Sharp joked with me before the game that I better not go down into the post, because I'd tear them up down low," Paulson said with another broad smile. "I told him after the game, 'At least I stayed out of the post.'"
From the outset, the pace was what you'd expect from an all-star game. Both teams ran the floor, trying to race the defense from one end to the other.
But the rust that normally shows up – and the sloppiness that can accompany that fast pace – was nowhere to be found. The Gazette hit its first four shots, the Telegraph hit three of its first four, and the track meet was on.
"These are the best players from all over the area," Polo's Brian Cavanaugh said, "so I expected we'd start strong and just get stronger. It was a lot of fun out there, because that's the way we all want to play."
The Telegraph took its only leads in the first quarter, the final one coming at 19-18 after Cavanaugh's baseline tear-drop floater with 1:56 left in the period. But Shaner hit a driving layup and Fulton's Matt Dail scored on a putback, then the Gazette answered McKinley's spinning jumper in the lane with a bucket by Milledgeville's Kameron DawTyne and another Shaner score, on a DawTyne assist.
Paulson was the spark for another run with his second 3 of the game, turning a 29-26 lead into a 40-29 margin over a 2-minute span in the second quarter. He finished that spurt with a bucket inside.
"It didn't seem like we had that big of a lead through the game," Shaner said, "but when they started to press, I figured we were up by a bunch."
Sharp's 3 capped a Telegraph surge that featured a McKinley coast-to-coast layup off a steal, a McKinley kick-out pass to Cavanaugh for a top-of-the-key 3, and a pair of Jordan Ernst kick-out passes to his Amboy teammate Damon Quest.
"We had those runs, and it felt like the game was a lot closer," Cavanaugh said. "But then I looked up at the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter, and we're down 16. Both teams played great, but they just hit more shots than we did."
The Gazette finished 39-for-77 (50.6 percent), while the Telegraph shot 26-for-62 (41.9 percent). The big difference was behind the arc, where the Gazette hit 14-for-34 (41.2 percent), and the Telegraph was just 8-for-29 (27.6 percent). The Gazette outrebounded the Telegraph 43-30, and the teams combined for 17 turnovers.
Sterling's Zach Rehmert had 14 points, five rebounds and two assists for the Gazette, while Dail added 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks. DawTyne dished a game-high five assists to go with six points, six rebounds and two steals, and Prophetstown's Ethan Howard chipped in nine points and nine rebounds. Donoho scored seven, Prophetstown's Chris Bauer finished with three points, and Milledgeville's Caleb Skoog had five points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Oregon's McKinley and Newman's John Payan led the Telegraph with 11 points apiece, with McKinley pulling down four rebounds, dishing three assists and nabbing three steals. Cavanaugh and Sharp scored 10 each, with Cavanaugh adding four rebounds and two blocks. Quest scored nine points, AFC's Troy Mairs added eight points and five rebounds, and Newman's Nate Terveer had six points, four rebounds and two steals. Fellow Comet Micah Trancoso had five points and four assists, and Ernst and Dixon's Michael Conley each had a basket.
SVM All-Star Classic
Gazette 95, Telegraph 74
MVP: Skylar Paulson, Gazette, 22 points, 6 3-pointers, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
Key performers: Dalton Shaner, Gazette, 18 points, 3 assists; Zach Rehmert, Gazette, 14 points, 5 rebounds; Matt Dail, Gazette, 11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks; Jessie McKinley, Telegraph, 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals; Brian Cavanaugh, Telegraph, 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks; Troy Mairs, Telegraph, 8 points, 5 rebounds