QUINCY — Delaney Straus felt insulted.
As the Missouri girls were milling around John Wood Community College’s Student Activity Center ahead of Saturday’s Muddy River Showcase, the Marion County standout overheard a conversation in which a tongue-in-cheek prediction about the boys game was made.
However, she thought the prediction of a 24-point Illinois victory was in reference to the girls game.
That rankled her and understandably so. Why? Because the game mattered.
Some all-star events turn into glorified pickup games and devolve into who can score the most. When you tug on a jersey with the colors of your state’s flagship university and your state symbol emblazoned on the front, it changes the context of the game.
It becomes about bragging rights and pride.
But moreso, it’s about memories.
Straus may not have helped the Show-Me State to victory — Illinois won 67-55 in a spirited battle — but everything else about the Showcase made her final high school event unforgettable.
“I got to practice with two of my teammates and my coach,” said Straus, who was joined on the Missouri squad by the Mustangs’ Halle Keilholz and Olivia Wood and Marion County coach Reed Plunkett. “I’m really thankful my coach got to coach us. That was awesome. I got to play with the best people in my area I would say. I got to play one more high school game, too.
“I’m going to college to play, but there are no guarantees there. They don’t know who I am. I may not see much playing time my freshman year, and that’s OK. It was nice to hit the floor one more time for my community.”
The budding relationships that come from practicing and playing together after being opponents for so long make the experience complete.
“I love meeting all the new players,” said Canton point guard Dalton Berhorst, who scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range for the Missouri boys in a 95-55 loss. “I knew of them but I really didn’t know them.
“Some of us decided to carpool to the practices and stuff like that. It was really fun getting to meet new guys and play with them. There were a lot of good players.”
They found common ground with a common goal.
“We’ve always played against each other,” said Unity’s Brooklyn Stiefel, who scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Illinois girls. “Now we’re together playing against our rivals from Missouri. That was fun.”
The coaches thought so, too.
“Oh, it was a blast,” Plunkett said. “How could you not enjoy coaching the best players in the area? I told them the other day at practice that it’s nice getting to coach with you instead of being frustrated by you.”
That’s the benefit of coaching in the game. It peels back another layer of familiarity and respect that you don’t get just going head-to-head.
“Competing against a lot of them or having them on the scouting report over the years is a lot different,” said Brock Edris, the Monroe City coach who guided the Missouri boys. “Getting to know them as a person and what their goals are in life and what their plans are after high school is what makes this great.
“The opportunity to coach them for a few days in practice and have fun together makes you grateful for that. We really had a good time.”
The fun in competing drove both sides to fight for an edge. That’s what everyone wants to see.
“I like getting insight into the best players from other teams,” said Greg Altmix, the Liberty coach who manned the helm of the Illinois boys. “Not surprisingly, you find some of the same attributes, same traits of all successful players.
“I’m always trying to figure out what makes these guys tick, what makes them so special, what makes them great players. And this was a group of great players.”
Now, they’ll have a memory to share.
“The best part was making relationships with people,” Quincy High School standout Jeremiah Talton said. “I think we all would say this was something special.”
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