MEDFORD — Fans were treated to a little bit of everything, including a fantastic finish, during Friday's second annual Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic in the Kids Unlimited gym.
The Rogue team put on a 3-point shooting clinic and came up big when it mattered most to rally for an 86-85 victory that wasn't decided until Talon Haggard stepped in front of a Josh Lokeno pass in the final seconds.
"That was pretty exciting," said Haggard, a 6-foot-3 senior post at Ashland High. "We were just trying to make plays and have some fun out there."
That was evident by all the smiles and pats on the back during the game, although the intensity was obvious when the teams came out of a timeout with 2:50 to play.
With his team trailing 83-78, Grants Pass senior David Connelly drained his fifth 3-pointer of the game to give the Rogue squad a lift and, on the next series, came up with a steal that eventually resulted in a rare 3-pointer by Haggard.
After North Medford senior Josh Pecktol couldn't answer for the Siskiyou squad, Travis Robbins of Crater found Kevin Snook of Illinois Valley moments later in the paint for a basket and an 86-83 Rogue lead with 1:17 to play.
South Medford senior Mitch Singler answered with a putback on his own driving effort 15 seconds later for Siskiyou, and then Phoenix junior Skyler Reagan came up big defensively by swooping in and blocking a Connelly shot after he was given an open lane to the basket.
Connelly missed off the inbounds and Hidden Valley's Mike Suthann came away with the rebound to give Siskiyou a final chance at victory.
That chance, however, was turned back after Reagan's floater rolled off the rim and Pecktol's putback attempt was blocked from behind.
With less than six seconds to go, Lokeno quickly gathered up the loose ball and attempted to slip a pass through the paint but Haggard stepped in front to clinch his team's comeback.
"You've gotta give respect to them because they knocked their shots down when it counted and we didn't," said Singler. "We had our opportunities but they didn't want us to win and really stepped up."
Haggard scored 11 of his team-high 19 points in the second quarter and, along with Connelly, was pivotal in helping his team keep pace with the loaded Siskiyou squad.
For his efforts in the win, Haggard was named the Classic's most valuable player. He surprised even himself with two 3-pointers among his scoring efforts, and brought the crowd to its feet with a thunderous dunk toward the end of the second quarter.
"It's a great award ... I'm surprised I got it," he said of the honor. "I was just coming out here to have fun and I ended up getting MVP."
The award could have easily been spread out to several others as Southern Oregon's finest shined bright under the spotlight granted by the all-star contest.
Connelly finished with 17 points and was a key contributor in his team going a scintillating 16-for-29 from 3-point range (55.2 percent).
"They have a lot of shooters on their team, definitely," said Lokeno, who had eight points, seven assists and five rebounds for Siskiyou. "They were good."
Singler scored a game-high 27 points to go with five rebounds and Pecktol had 20 points, 17 rebounds and three assists for the Siskiyou squad, which led 71-64 heading into the final eight minutes after outscoring the Rogue team 30-17 in the third quarter.
"I'm not going to say I'm happy after losing that one," Pecktol said with a laugh, "but it was a really great experience."
"I thought we had it," he added. "It was close all the way to the end and you can't ask for anything more. It was awesome, a real fun time."
The Rogue team also received 14 points, five rebounds and four assists from Robbins and 13 points and five rebounds from Chris Bates of St. Mary's.
Bates was instrumental in a run by his team midway through the fourth quarter, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers and a turnaround shot in the paint to go with a blocked shot.
"I hadn't really shot that much prior to that in the game," said the Crusaders junior. "I just wanted to get an opportunity to hit a couple shots and they went down."
For Bates, the win was obviously nice, but he really enjoyed the opportunity of getting to play with students from schools in the 6A level on down to 1A.
"It was just fun to see how much better those big-school kids are," he added.
SISKIYOU (85) — Mitch Singler 27, Josh Pecktol 20, Austin Rowley 15, Josh Lokeno 8, Mike Suthann 6, Alex Young 6, Skyler Reagan 3, Harley Casillas 0. Totals: 36-75 7-12 85.
ROGUE (86) — Talon Haggard 19, David Connelly 17, Travis Robbins 14, Chris Bates 13, Jake Longo 9, Kevin Snook 8, Logan Winter 6, Ryan Anderson 0, Craig Lee 0. Totals: 32-80 6-8 86.
Siskiyou 18 23 30 14 — 85
Rogue 21 26 17 22 — 86
3-point goals — Siskiyou 6-19 (Singler 3, Rowley 2, Pecktol 1), Rogue 16-29 (Connelly 5, Bates 3, Robbins 2, Winter 2, Longo 2, Haggard 2).