CHARLOTTE – The best private-school senior basketball players from the East and the West converged March 2 on Providence Day to lace up the sneakers and play together one final time.
Both games began quickly before blowouts ensued. The East girls started on a 9-1 run and never trailed throughout, although the West would get it as close as six points and within double digits late. The East won 83-61.
Metrolina Christian’s Stephen Clark had a pair of blocks on defense to open the boys game, but defense was not en vogue throughout as the East ended up running, dunking and 3-point shooting its way to a 137-115 blowout.
But in the end, it never mattered what the score was or that the East swept the showcase.
“It’s a great way to finish out our career, and it was a lot of fun to play with some of the best players in the state,” said Charlotte Latin star Ruthie Jones, who is also a Duke commit and all-state soccer player.
Trinity Christian’s Gloria Smith led the West with 17 points. Jones added nine points, seven rebounds and four assists while Covenant Day’s Madeline Crumpler scored eight points.
One of the best parts for Jones was teaming up Charlotte Latin teammate and Washington and Lee commit Kathryn Vandiver one last time.
Vandiver was the only other West player in double figures as she scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
“It was great to play with (Jones) one last time since we grew up playing together,” Vandiver said. “It was also really fun to play with so many new people and that was a learning curve, but to get back out there one last time was a lot of fun.”
Of note, the East was led by Neuse Christian’s Izabel Varajao, who dominated at times and scored 17 points. Varajao is a Michigan commit and the niece of former NBA player Anderson Varajao.
The boys game had many of the same friendly competition, and featured Carmel Christian’s starting five of Marten Maide, DeAngelo Epps, Donovan Gregory, Jake Boggs and Myles Pierre.
Charlotte Christian’s Paul Hudson, JC Tharrington and Seth Bennett played alongside Clark and Country Day’s Alex Tabor and Rylan McLaurin (who played for the East).
It was a star-studded roster on both sides with 15 players currently signed to college rosters, but the running-and-gunning East took a 22-20 lead and never looked back.
Ravenscroft’s Jake Vanderheijden, a Bucknell commit, led the East with 23 points; Trinity Christian’s DJ Horne, an Illinois State commit, scored 21; and unsigned Fayetteville Academy big man Emmanuel Izunabor added 20 to lead the East.
Pierre scored 21 to lead the West, but Epps (19), Gregory (16) and Tharrington (15 points, eight assists) all were in double figures.
Although the score got away from them, it was still fun for all.
“I have known (Epps) and Donovan pretty much my whole AAU career, so it was fun to play with them and just get out here and have a good time,” Tharrington said.
The West’s other scorers included Boggs (nine), Maide (five), Hudson (four), Bennett (three) and Tabor (three).
The games featured more than 20 college recruits, a list likely to grow now that high school season has ended.
As Epps, a College of Charleston signee, and future Appalachian State teammates Gregory and Tharrington huddled around one last time, it was apparent to Gregory this was a fitting end.
“It’s just crazy to see how far each of us have come.” he said.