Basketball: North, South split in Illinois Valley All-Star Games return


PERU – Recently, Putnam County senior Ava Hatton and her sister, Presley, were looking at the Facebook page for the Illinois Valley All-Star Game.

Presley Hatton still was in the cover photo from when she played in the game in 2018.

“I told her, ‘I’m going to be on the cover page this year,”' Ava Hatton joked.

The event ran from 2012-19 but was canceled because of COVID-19 in 2020.

After a four-year hiatus, the game returned Saturday at St. Bede Academy.

“It means a lot to put this uniform on one more time and to play with girls I played travel ball with like Ali (Bosnich), Ella (Hermes) and McKenna (Christiansen), and to play with girls on other teams with a bunch of talent means a lot, too,” Hatton said.

Serena senior Carson Baker was happy to see the event return as well.

“I was thrilled when I heard they were coming back with it,” Baker said. “When I heard I was on the team, it was the best feeling in the world.”

St. Bede’s Ali Bosnich said she hopes the event is here to stay.

“I’m thankful they continued this tradition,” Bosnich said. “I hope in future years they can do the all-star game as well.”

In the girls game, Bosnich and Hatton helped the South squad to a 63-47 victory, while Baker helped the North squad win the boys game 98-78.

Between games, Baker won the boys 3-point contest by making 11 of 15 shots, while Fieldcrest’s Kaitlin White won the girls shootout by hitting 10 of 15.

White then knocked down 9 of 15 to beat Baker for the overall crown.

“It was a little nerve-racking, because I haven’t really touched a ball that much since our last game, but it’s really rewarding that I won and to know I still have some shooting in me,” White said.



South 63, North 47: The South got off to an early eight-point lead, but the North tightened it up to 15-10 by the end of the first quarter.

White and Fieldcrest teammate Aliah Celis sparked a North run in the second quarter.

Celis scored on an assist from White, then Celis got a steal and found White in transition to tie it before Marquette’s Lilly Craig scored on a putback for the North’s first lead at 20-18.

“It brought a lot of energy to our team,” White said about her and Celis’ run.

The South led 26-25 at halftime before pulling away in the second half. The South outscored the North 23-12 in the fourth quarter behind seven points from Bosnich.

“I thought we all shared the ball really well,” Hatton said. “We didn’t take forced shots. We pushed the ball.”

Bosnich scored a game-high 16 points, while Hatton finished with 12 points. Dwight’s Kassy Kodat had 10 for the South, which had all nine players score.

Bosnich said it was fun to play with Hermes - and be coached by Stephanie Mickley and Shannon Leininger - one more time and to put rivalries aside to play with La Salle-Peru’s Abens and Bailey Pode.

“It was really unique having all the girls that normally our defense would be centered around playing together,” Bosnich said. “It was so special and so fun. I’ll definitely cherish this.

“I’m going to miss (Hermes, Mickley and Leininger). After leaving the court the last time, I was trying not to cry, because this is supposed to be a happy time.

White led the North team with 12 points, while Craig finished with nine.

“It means a lot,” White said. “It’s our last time playing in a Fieldcrest jersey, and it was a way to represent our school one more time. It was fun playing with my teammate Aliah and getting to play with all these other girls who I don’t get to play with.”



North 98, South 78: The game was close early, with the North holding a 20-17 lead after one quarter before pulling away in the second.

The North drained four 3-pointers in the second and outscored the South 28-12 to take a 48-29 halftime lead.

“We played some hard defense,” Bureau Valley’s Corbin Chhim said. “We pushed the ball up the court. We shot the ball well too.”

The North team went up 20 for the first time at 51-31 when Serena’s Richie Armour buried a 3, but the South rallied in the fourth quarter.

Marquette’s Denver Trainor hit a 3-pointer, scored on a layup then got a steal and hit two free throws to pull the South within 78-72. However, Earlville’s Griffin Cook and Ryan Browder shifted the momentum back to the North.

Cook scored on a three-point play, and Browder knocked down a 3 on back-to-back possessions to push the lead back to double digits at 84-72.

“It felt great playing with all the people I grew up with, including some of the Earlville boys,” Baker said. “It was really cool getting to meet (different players) and getting to see how they play.

“It was just amazing being able to step on the court one more time. … Getting a dub and playing with the people I grew up with was amazing.”

Baker opened the second half on the floor with Husker teammates Armour, Tanner Faivre and Hunter Staton. The North team was coached by Serena’s Dain Twait.

“To step on the floor with them one more time was the best feeling in the world,” Baker said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to all this even though it means the start of something new. I loved playing one last time with these guys.”

The North, which hit 17 3s, had a balanced scoring attack with Browder leading the way with 15 points, while Baker and Chhim each had 14, Staton scored 13, Mendota’s Izaiah Nanez had 11, and Cook and Armour contributed 10 each.

“As a team, we worked really hard in the offseason, and I think it really showed,” Chhim said. “I would not have been here if I played like I did last year. We put in the work and we improved a lot. It meant a lot.”

Trainor and Flanagan-Cornell’s Kesler Collins led the South with 15 points each, while Fieldcrest’s Jozia Johnson had 13 points. Streator’s Logan Aukland added 12 points.

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