Park Stars in North Loss

CHARLESTON – Wheeling Central’s David Park played on some pretty big stages during his stellar prep career.

The Maroon Knights guard was at it again Friday night as he posted 20 points and 13 rebounds in the North-South Basketball Classic.

While Park’s effort wasn’t enough to lift the North past the South, it was a fitting performance to end his prep career.

State player of the year Jon Elmore dropped in 25 points during his farewell game in the Kanawha Valley and his South squad eventually used its superior firepower to capture a 104-88 victory in front of an estimated crowd of 1,100 at the South Charleston Community Center.

It’s the third straight victory for the South, which raised its all-time lead to 26-6 since the series resumed in 1983.

George Washington’s Elmore, a VMI recruit who led the state in scoring at 31.4 points per game, sank three 3-pointers in the first half, then concentrated on taking the ball to the basket in the second half. He also finished with six rebounds and two steals.

“It was great to cap it off like this,” Elmore said. “I had a great senior season at GW, a great coaching staff and a great school, but this was really one for the ages.”

Elmore’s efforts included the game’s only dunk, an alley-oop feed from Garret McCarty as Elmore dashed down the right baseline and elevated. That pushed the South lead to 85-64 with six minutes left.

“I surprised myself a little bit with that one,” Elmore said.

“Sometimes you get that adrenaline rush and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Elmore got plenty of support, as four other South players reached double figures in scoring – Arick Nicks of Huntington (13 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks), Josh Tunstalle of Greenbrier East (13 points), McCarty (11 points) and Anthony Billings of SC, who pulled off a double-double (10 points, 15 rebounds).

Nicks was running neck-and-neck with Elmore for possible South MVP honors, but twisted his ankle falling onto a teammate’s foot early in the second half.

“We had a lot of good players – we had good chemistry,” said Nicks, who plans to attend Marshall for a year, then transfer to Newberry, S.C. “Some of us played AAU together.”

The South, which sported nine Class AAA players on its roster compared to four for the North, built leads as large as 23 points in the first half and settled for a 53-36 lead at the break.

The North, led by the trio of Wade Martin (Point Pleasant), Jerome Jones (Washington) and Park, sliced that deficit down to 53-41 early in the second half, prompting a timeout from the South bench.

Immediately, the South went on a 13-4 run, utilizing three driving baskets by Elmore in that stretch, putting the lead back to 66-45 and was never seriously threatened afterward.

The trio of Martin, Jones and Park scored 61 of the North’s 88 points. Martin (18 points, seven rebounds, four assists) was selected as the North MVP in a media vote, but the honor could have easily gone to either Jones (23 points, eight rebounds, six assists) or Park.

Martin, who plans on attending Fishburne Military School in Virginia next fall, was happy to display his skills to a statewide audience.

“It was great to get a little more exposure before I went on to the next level,” Martin said of attending prep school.

“It gives me another year to get stronger and develop my game for the college level.”

Jacob Neal of Roane County added 11 points for the North, which made just 33 of 99 shots and had 17 turnovers.

The contest also marked the final game representing their respective schools for all four coaches – Bill McClanahan (Charleston Catholic) and Pat McGinnis (Winfield) for the South, along with Don Bullett (Washington) and Tom Gutshall (Tucker County) of the North.

All stepped down following last season.

“The coaches were great,” Elmore said.

“I’m sure it was a great way for them to go out. Our team played great and it was a lot of fun.”

In the pregame skills competitions, Cody McClung of Nicholas County won the slam dunk, Cal Cistaro of Notre Dame took the 3-point shootout and Park led the free-throw shooting.

The West Virginia Athletic Directors Association, which sponsors the game, also handed out $500 scholarships to McCarty and the North’s Ben Collie (Parkersburg Catholic).