It wasn’t the splurge of points fans witnessed in the last North-South All-Star Game. In fact, even though both teams went over 100 points, defense proved to be the deciding factor.
Jaelin Johnson led the way with 27 points and seven rebounds as the North, after nearly frittering away a late 10-point lead, made three big defensive plays in the final 30 seconds Friday night to emerge with a 105-104 victory at the South Charleston Community Center.
Charleston Catholic’s Aiden Satterfield led the South with 25 points, five rebounds and four dunks and George Washington’s Alex Yoakum donated 24 points, 20 of them coming in the second half.
The North got big games from Fairmont Senior’s Johnson, Robert C. Byrd’s Bryson Lucas (16 points, seven rebounds) and Bridgeport’s Jack Bifano (15 points, seven rebounds), but needed to lean on its defense after the South cut its deficit back to 105-104 on two free throws by Yoakum with 31 seconds left.
The North missed the front end of two 1-and-1s, but got a defensive stop and made two steals before the clock ran out. Fittingly, the game ended with the North swiping the ball before the South could get up a shot off an inbound play from halfcourt with 3.5 seconds to go.
It was a reversal of sorts, since the South used its defense to creep back into the game after trailing 95-85 with about 51/2 minutes to go. Several of the North’s 25 turnovers resulted in the South regaining the lead twice down the stretch.
“I knew that last four minutes was going to be a struggle,’’ Johnson said, “because they were going to play it like a regular game in an all-star game. I feel like we really defended well in this game. It felt like a normal game for us.’’
The North set a record for points in the most recent game, a 171-141 triumph in 2019. Even though Friday’s game didn’t approach those heights, the lead changed hands 21 times and the pace remained quick throughout.
The South’s final lead came at 100-99 on two free throws by Yoakum with 2:26 left. Bifano retaliated with an inside basket and two foul shots to put the North back up for good at 103-100 with 1:50 remaining. The South had just three turnovers at halftime, but ended with 14.
“We played it like a pickup game,’’ Johnson said. “It was just fun to be out there competing with the guys.’’
John Alt (Pendleton County) added 10 points and five rebounds for the North, which led off the boards 50-38 against a South team that didn’t have much in the way of low-post players.
Satterfield, however, struck a blow for Class A players everywhere by leading the South team in scoring. He also knocked down four 3-pointers to go along with his four dunks.
“I work hard every day,’’ Satterfield said. “This is what you wake up for early — before-school workouts, after-school workouts. It’s a lot of work. This doesn’t happen overnight.
“I’m just thankful I got one last game in high school. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but I got to perform with the best in the state.’’
Satterfield turned in two of the game’s three signature plays — an alley-oop dunk off a fast-break feed from Yoakum in the second half, and a four-point play as he pulled up for a 3-pointer despite being closely guarded (and fouled) by Johnson. The other highlight was a Lucas behind-the-back pass to Bailey Thompson for a North layup.
Two other players hit double-figure scoring for the South — Greenbrier West’s Kaiden Pack (12 points) and Huntington’s Amare Smith (10 points). Smith led the South in rebounds with seven and Pack had six.
Tug Valley’s Caleb May only scored four points but handed out six assists. May is pulling double duty this weekend, as he’s set to play wide receiver for the South in Saturday’s North-South Football Classic at South Charleston High School.
At halftime, the North led 54-51 behind 15 points from Johnson and eight from Lucas. Satterfield had 12 for the South and Pack eight.
In the pregame skills competitions, the winners were Lincoln County’s John Blankenship (free throws), Clay-Battelle’s Mojo Chisler (3-pointers) and Satterfield (slam dunk).
The West Virginia Athletic Directors Association, sponsor of the game, handed out two $500 scholarships following the contest to the South’s Pack and the North’s Ryan Niceler (University).
The South continues to lead the series 29-9 since its resumption in 1983.