SPORTS >>Hall sees few looks, still enjoys big week
By JASON KING
FAYETTEVILLE — Riverview graduate Tony Hall was as deserving as anyone to appear in the All Star basketball game Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena, but his quiet personality and humbleness was not the norm in the showboating and smack-talk fest that was the East versus West game. The West team took the win 92-82 after trailing most of the game.
Hall was the only local player to take part in the game, but Riverview coach Danny Starkey joined his player one last time as an East assistant coach, along with Lonoke head coach Wes Swift, who also served as an assistant on the East side.
Hall played all of the second quarter, and sporadically throughout the second half. He didn’t recieve many looks in the game, or chances to even touch the ball for that matter.
Hall did make the most of what little opportunity that was given to him, swishing a three pionter mid-way through the second quarter, and converted a free throw in the second half for four points in the game.
Unfortunately for Hall and the 28 other players on hand for the game, nearly all the hype centered around future Razorback Michael Sanchez. Sanchez’s ultra-physical play and constant showboating delighted the West-heavy crowd, and as is usually the case with a northwest Arkansas local signs with the Razorbacks, he got every benefit of the doubt from the officials in the All-Star game.
This common practice cut the All-Star experience short for Carlisle’s Josh French, who went to the bench with five fouls before the end of the first half.
The Har-Ber graduate’s shtick was almost comical at times, pumping his fists and screaming at the top of his lungs after every completed basket and foul drawn.
East jumped out to an early dominating lead, but the West team bounced back to trail by only five at the intermission.
Hall’s entry into the game went relatively quietly until the 3:58 mark, when he sent a three-point shot through to give East their largest lead of the game at 34-23. He drew a charge on Sanchez moments later to give the East possession with an 11-point lead.
Hall sat out the third quarter, which would be the final frame of the first half in the specially-formatted five-quarter game, but return mid-way through the fourth quarter.
East carried a 47-42 lead into the locker room at halftime. East carried the momentum through the first three periods, but the West team came alive on the heels of Sanchez in the fifth and final quarter.
West took their first lead mid-way through the fourth quarter, but a three-point basket by East’s Ronnie Davis put them back out front 60-59.
Davis’ shot sparked the final run by the East, as Kirk Porter of Greene County Tech came away with a steal and a dunk, followed by a steal and layup by Davis to give the East a 64-59 lead with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter, promting the West to take timeout to regroup. Hall came away with a steal in the final moments of the fourth, but was not able to convert on the fast break.
East led 70-63 heading into the final frame. Hall stayed into the start the fifth quarter, and started off with a free throw to give the East a 71-65 lead.
It would be all Sanchez from there, however, as the West standout converted on a number of inside shots, and was sent to the line for a three-point opportunity after nearly every shot. This allowed the West to take a 75-74 lead with 4:14 remaining, and the rest of the game would turn out to be much of the same.
“It was real fun,” Hall said after the game. “There were only 15 players in the whole state that got to do this, so I was in some pretty good company. I got to play with some really good players. I did average, I guess, but I played as hard as I could and had a lot of fun.”
Starkey offered encouragement and praise to all of the East players in the locker room area after the game, particularly a frustrated French, who drew the unenviable task of guarding crowd favorite Sanchez in the first half.
“Words can’t describe how I feel about Tony,” Starkey said. “He led us to a state championship, so to share this moment with him has been an honor. It’s our last time out together, so it’s kind of bittersweet. I don’t know what I can say about all of these young men, they are all very special.”
Swift also spent much of his post game chasing down players to thank them for their efforts and giving encouragement to thier future endeavours.
“This was so much fun,” Swift said. “With all the people that you meet, from players to coaches and everyone else, you make acquaintances for years to come. You get to keep up with them and see what all they accomplish, and they keep of with you. It’s East against West, but two hours before the game all the East and West coaches were hanging out, telling old stories, most of them lies, but the whole week has been that way.”