By BRADLEY HELZEL
Times West Virginian
PLEASANT VALLEY - Every time they shared the same court during their high school careers, Frankfort's Abby Beeman and Fairmont Senior's Anysa Jordan were enemies, often times under momentous do-or-die postseason stakes.
Beeman saw her sophomore season end en route to a Class AAstate title march for Jordan's Lady Polar Bears. The next season as a junior, Beeman and the Falcons enacted revenge, taking down reigning champ Fairmont Senior short of the state tournament, albeit with Jordan in street clothes after she suffered a torn ACLearly in the season.
As seniors, the two finally met on the big stage in Charleston, with Jordan and the Polar Bears once again triumphing in on their path to another Class AA state title crown.
But on Sunday at East Fairmont High School, in the final game of their respective high school careers, Beeman and Jordan took the court as allies in the annual North-South All-Star Classic. The duo powered the North to an 84-60 victory.
Beeman, who took MVP honors for the North, scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting to go with 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals, while Jordan added 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals to lead North's running-and-gunning spread out attack over the South.
"It's better playing with them than against them,"Beeman said of her North teammates. "I've played against a good bit of them throughout my high school career, and it was just nice to finally play with them."
"I've played in this area for a long time and I never got to meet (a lot of them)," Jordan said. "We became really close really quick. It was a lot of fun."
The South was led by Woodrow Wilson's Laken Ball, who scored a team-high 13 points to go with nine rebounds en route to earning team MVPhonors. Independence's Alexis Bolen also scored in double figures for the South with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds.
Every player on both sides scored in the game.
"Fred (Sauro) and I kept saying to each other the whole time that they're all-stars for a reason," said North coach Mike Baldy of Trinity who teamed with Sauro of Williamstown. "They have such tremendous attitudes and they carry themselves like pros. It was really cool to be able to coach a group like that."
Baldy's and Sauro's North squad started rolling from the opening tip versus the South, which was coached by Jamie LaMaster of George Washington and John Kennedy of Ripley.
With capable ball handlers galore on the roster, the North revved up the pace, hunting transition chances at every turn either by way of direct grab-and-goes or hasty outlets. When they were restricted to half-court offense, Baldy and Sauro ensured driving corridors and passing pathways remained open as they preached four-out spacing that more than allowed the offense to breathe.
The North - which also got 10 points from Parkersburg South's Sierra Hays, nine points from Madonna's Andrea Alimario, eight points from Notre Dame's Taylor Martino and a stuffed line of seven rebounds and five assists from Trinity's Reagan Sharp - ticked off a 9-0 run in the game's opening four minutes.
Beeman, who also won Sunday's 3-point contest and finished runner-up to Ball in the free-throw shooting contest, was the fulcrum behind the speedy start. She drilled a pull-up 3 in transition, found Jordan for a layup in transition and then got her own fastbreak feed courtesy of Bridgeport's Emily Riggs for a deuce. And after GW's Katy Darnell got the South on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws, Beeman responded with a cold-blooded walk-up triple to make it 12-2.
"I just kind of do whatever I'm feeling or what I'm seeing," Beeman said, "but if I've passed the ball, I'm like, 'All right, it's fine if I shoot a shot,' but normally it's just whatever is there."
North maintained a 10-point advantage at 16-6 following a tremendous play by Buckhannon-Upshur's Audrey Gaudet in which she ripped a dribble for a steal then launched a hit-ahead pass to Hays from her knees for a fastbreak layup. A 3 by Tucker County's Riley Evans pushed the North lead to 12 at 19-7.
But the South ended the first with a 6-0 run as it finally found its footing by busting up the North with some bully ball. As Wyoming East's Jasmine Blankenship, who had nine points and three assists, steadied the team's floor game with her ball handling, the combo of Ball and Bolen feasted on the offensive glass, where the South out-rebounded the North, 9-5, in the first half.
Back-to-back putbacks by Bolen cut the margin to 22-17 early in the second quarter, but the North summoned another deluge, this time in the form of a 13-2 run. It was sparked by a banked-in 3 by Jordan and continued with a delicious behind-the-back by Beeman on a fastbreak. A pull-up by Fairmont Senior's Courtney Wilfong, who had six points and four rebounds ballooned the lead to 16 at 35-19 with 2:55 until the half.
"Our mentality was just to read it and go," Wilfong said. "I feel like that's what I got from the coaches, and then once we figured out that perfect balance, we just rolled with it."
The North led 37-23 at the break as it outshot the South 39 percent to 23.5 percent and held a plus-four turnover differential.
A sludgy start both ways to start the second half eventually gave way to another North firestorm, this one derived from the contributions of usual Class A rivals in Trinity's Sharp and Notre Dame's Martino. Sharp broke down defenders off the bounce with slick handles, spraying the ball about on hit-aheads, drop-off and kick outs. Martino was the primary beneficiary of those drive-and-kicks, canning back-to-back treys from above the break to put the North up by as many as 22 late in the third.
A couple of gritty rack attacks by Spring Valley's Haley McComas, who had eight points and eight rebounds, kept the South within shouting distance in the fourth, but it could never slice the deficit below 15. Alimario and Williamstown's Bethany Arnold, who grabbed seven rebounds off the bench, slapped on the North's exclamation point as the two forwards each banged home a triple in the waning minutes.
Email Bradley Heltzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.