SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some of West Virginia’s finest talent from the class of 2021 was on display Friday in the annual North-South All-Star Basketball Classic at the South Charleston Community Center.
One year after the game wasn’t held due to the pandemic, the North Bears held off a late charge from the South Cardinals to pull out a 105-104 victory.
“There’s talent every which way you look,” said North coach Ryan Lambert, who helped lead Pendleton County to a Class A runner-up finish last month. “It’s a coach’s dream. I only got to spend a day with this whole crew, but before we went out and played I told them I’d take them all home, because these are all quality, yes sir and no sir kids.
“They did everything we asked of them. It’s not that we were able to put a bunch of stuff in, but we were able to lay principles out there and say hey this is what we want.”
The South, which trailed 95-85 with 5:51 remaining, got six straight points from Charleston Catholic’s Aiden Satterfield and a layup off a steal from Tug Valley guard Caleb May to trim their deficit to two with 3:49 remaining.
“These games are fun, but all of us are big-time competitors and we want to win,” Satterfield said. “That’s what it comes down to. We all want to win really bad.”
George Washington guard Alex Yoakum put the South on top 98-97 with a three-pointer a the 3-minute mark, and Yoakum’s two free throws with 2:26 left allowed the Cardinals to lead 100-99.
But Bridgeport’s Jack Bifano scored four straight points for the North, which also got a layup from Robert C. Byrd’s Bryson Lucas to lead by five with 50 seconds remaining.
Yoakum converted two free throws with 42 seconds to play and made two more 11 seconds later to make it a one-point game. After Fairmont Senior’s Jaelin Johnson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, the South had a chance to take a late lead, but Greenbrier West guard Kaiden Pack turned it over with 5 seconds remaining.
Still, after Lucas missed the front end of the ensuing 1-and-1, the Cardinals had a chance to win, but they were unable to get off a shot in the final seconds.
“I think the pressure turned the game a little bit in our favor,” said South coach Bryan England, who guides St. Albans. “We had a couple chances at the end in a one possession game, but overall what a great experience. What an opportunity to be around different kids and coaches from the state and have an opportunity to get to know different personalities.”
The contest was competitive throughout, with Johnson scoring 15 of his game-high 27 points in the opening half to help the North hold a 54-51 lead. Johnson and Satterfield were often matched up against each other and neither disappointed. Satterfield scored 25 points, nearly half of which came on four three-pointers, to lead the South.
“We played against him one time during the season and we went at it,” Johnson said. “It’s a good time playing against him again and he’s a really good player. I just knew if he was getting hot that I’d have to match him.
“The overall competitiveness of the game was really strong. I didn’t feel like the game was going to be the all-star games with the highest scores. I knew there was going to be a lot of crunch time plays and back-and-forth scoring.”
Yoakum scored the last 11 points for the South and poured in 22 of his 24 points in the second half.
Robert C. Byrd’s Bryson Lucas scored 16 points and made four triples in the win, while Bifano added 15 points. Josh Alt, one of three Pendleton County players for the North, added 10 points in the win.
“There’s not too many times that you get to make a run like we did. And we’re family,” Lambert said. “These kids are leaving me. They’re seniors. So this weekend extended our season and allowed us to enjoy a day together.”
Pack scored 12 points for the South, while Huntington’s Amare Smith contributed 10 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
Johnson, who made 12-of-19 field-goal attempts, led all players with nine rebounds to help the Bears hold a 51-39 rebounding edge. He and Satterfield were chosen most valuable player of their respective teams.
“I owed Jaelin one,” Satterfield said. “If you look at the stat sheet, Jaelin played some really good defense on me the first time we played. It was really fun. We got to compete a little bit.”
The win gave the North a second straight victory and third in the last four meetings after the South won five straight from 2012-2016.
North-South All-Star Basketball Classic Scoring
Brayden Miller (Roane County) — 6 points
Bryson Lucas (Robert C. Byrd) — 16 points
Jaelin Johnson (Fairmont Senior) — 27 points
Jack Bifano (Bridgeport) — 15 points
Bailey Thompson (Pendleton County) — 8 points
Ryan Niceler (University) — 6 points
Josh Alt (Pendleton County) — 10 points
Sam Cremeans (Williamstown) — 2 points
Mojo Chisler (Clay-Battelle) — 6 points
Gavin Kennedy (Robert C. Byrd) — 2 points
Graden McKinney (Ritchie County) — 2 points
Isaiah Gardiner (Pendleton County) — 5 points
William Gabbert (Greenbrier East) — 7 points
Alex Yoakum (George Washington) — 24 points
Mason Pinkett (George Washington) — 5 points
Aiden Satterfield (Charleston Catholic) 25 points
Caleb May (Tug Valley) — 4 points
Kaiden Pack (Greenbrier West) — 12 points
Braden Howell (Liberty Raleigh) — 4 points
Zion Suddeth (Charleston Catholic) — 9 points
Amare Smith (Huntington) — 10 points
John Blankenship (Lincoln County) — 4 points
Jaimelle Claytor (St. Albans) and Ethan Kincaid (Winfield) did not score