Bethlehem Press

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Via games provide fun, entertainment

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 by Todd Kress tkress@tnonline.com in Sports

All-star games are meant to be fun for the players and entertaining for its crowds. After a high school basketball season that saw plenty of local area teams reach the state tournament, Saturday’s Via All-Star Basketball Classic was a refreshing ending to plenty senior players’ careers.

In the first two contests of a four-game schedule of the 42nd Annual Via All Star Basketball Classic at Northampton Community College, the North and South teams split the outcomes. The South girls defeated the North, 45-38, in the first game, followed by a 102-85 victory for the North boys.

Salisbury had three representatives at the Via All-Star Classic. Jaxon Costello represented the Falcon boys in the second game of the day, while Caylin Meikrantz and Kyra Bruns suited up for the South girls to kick off festivities.

A total of four Emmaus seniors were named all-stars. Twins Matt and David Kachelries suited up for the South boys, while Zoe Stein and Kiyae White represented the Lady Hornets on the South girls’ team.

In all, seven Bethlehem area players were named to the boys and girls’ South teams. Liberty’s Tandem of Jeremy Johnson (7) and Cameron Hoffman (6) combined for 13 points, and Beca’s Amir Pettiford was also named to the boys’ team. Beca’s Neila Luma (13) and Tessa Zamolyi (11) scored 24 of the South girls’ 45 points in its victory. Liberty’s Jochebed Arthur and Kristina Polak were also named as all-stars.

“Playing in the Via game was a great experience to play with and against players that I never got the opportunity to,” Meikrantz said. “Everyone was really supportive on and off the court, and it was interesting to see the different playing styles come out. [Bethlehem Catholic] coach [Jose] Medina made the experience exciting and made sure we competed at the highest level.”

Led by Medina, the South girls erupted for 18 points in the first quarter—led by two three-pointers from Allen’s Millie Troache—and never looked back. A 10-2 scoring advantage in the fourth and final quarter cemented the victory for the South girls.

And while all-star games are all in good fun, the South girls certainly wanted to top their counterparts from the northern part of the Lehigh Valley.

“I know all the girls were excited to compete against the other team because we had high hopes going into the game to come out with a win,” Meikrantz said. “Coach Medina made sure we worked hard at the practices before the game and to have a winning mentality. Even though it’s out of fun, we were excited to win playing the last time in our uniforms.”

In the second game of the day, plenty of athleticism and scoring occupied the court at one time. Take for instance the start of the game when the teams combined to send out six 1,000-point scorers on the court for the opening tipoff.

However, it wasn’t one of those 1,000-point scorers who had the biggest impact in helping the North jump out to an early lead. Pocono Mountain East’s Stefan Forbes scored 14 of his team’s 51 first-half points to push North’s lead to 51-48 at intermission.

The South, which featured some of the more talented senior players from this year’s class, got 16 from Allen’s Taleek Williams (game-high 26 points) but came up short in the second half.

“It was really fun,” said Matt Kachelries (six points), one of those 1,000-point scorers and a recent commit to Bloomsburg University. “We got to play with a lot of the top notch players in the league. At one point there was six 1,000-point scorers out there. There were a lot of people that can score the ball, and we had some high flyers out there.”

The Falcons’ Costello was one of five Colonial League players that suited up with some of the best talent the East Penn Conference had to offer. Unlike you might think, however, the combination wasn’t as weird mixing the two conferences. Plenty of these guys suited up together for an all-star game back in eighth grade.

“It was nice seeing everyone all grown up,” Costello said. “It was fun playing with everyone. Not only was it fun playing one last time, it was for a nice cause. It made it better and even more memorable.

“Our team actually had the most kids from the Colonial League, which kind of made me feel a little more comfortable even though we probably had the most skill. I thought it was cool because I would get a chance to play with some of the other kids in the league on the same team for once instead of against them.”

The foursome of games on “Super Saturday” was the culmination of Via’s event, but it went way beyond basketball. The players also had the privilege of attending a clinic and teaching kids with special needs some of the skills of the game.

“I got to talk to the kids I would be playing with beforehand,” Costello said. “The clinic was nice, too. There was just the right amount of us volunteering…It was nice because everyone that went got paired up with a kid with special needs. We got to talk to them for a while. We got to shoot around with them and dribble.”

The Via All-Star Banquet was held last Wednesday, March 29, at Sands Event Center. Parkland’s Sam Iorio was named the Player of the Year.