TAMPA — At several junctures throughout Friday night’s Hillsborough County boys all-star game, West coach Steve Smith — a mild undercurrent of frustration in his voice — implored his group to play defense.
He might have had better luck imploring the revelers at the nearby Springsteen concert to remain seated.
For one carefree evening at Tampa Prep, motion offenses were a lost art and defense mainly a lost cause. Not squandered was the undistilled joy of trying to out-juke and out-jaw peers for one of the final times at the prep level.
“It’s an all-star game, so everybody came out here just trying to have fun, so that’s what I did,” said East MVP Jamal Evans of Riverview, who scored a game-high 28 in his team’s 111-101 triumph.
“I just came out here, just played the game and had fun with it.”
Robinson’s Tre Leonard, presented the Alston “Mac” McGahagin Award as the county’s top senior player a day earlier, scored 22 to earn West MVP honors.
Leonard and Berkeley Prep’s Nelson Agholor scored 11 in a row during a 13-0 first-half run to give their team a 31-20 lead. The East, however, scored the next 15 points and led 53-51 at intermission.
Between halves, Newsome’s Dylan Bridges won the 3-point shootout while Leonard edged Evans for the slam-dunk title.
Leonard earned a perfect 10 from all three judges when he tossed the ball off the backboard toward Steinbrenner’s Joey Maloney, who headed it upwards to a leaping Leonard for a two-handed dunk.
“(Maloney) said he’s pretty good at soccer, so I said, ‘Let’s try this off-the-head thing I saw (on TV) a few weeks ago,’ ” Leonard said.
The East led 97-90 with 3:57 to play when Smith put on a full-court press. A little more than 90 seconds later, the West had taken a 100-99 lead with Blake’s Clarence Peterson scoring six in a row, four off turnovers.
But the East regrouped with a 6-0 spurt of its own and never looked back. Bridges and East Bay guard Justin Green added 22 and 21, respectively, for the winners.
“I’m friends with a lot of these guys out here,” Leonard said. “It’s our last game before going to college, so we just wanted to come out here, put on a show for the crowd and have some fun for our last game.”