E.J. Williams closed the book on his Middletown High School career with a game-ending dunk.
The 6-foot-11 center followed a winding senior path, having started the school year at the Lincoln Academy prep school in Suwanee, Ga. He transferred back to Middletown and ended up playing 15 games for the Middies.
Williams scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half Saturday night in the second annual All-Butler County All-Star boys basketball game, earning the Blue team’s Player of the Game award in a 117-100 victory over the Red at the Hamilton Athletic Center.
“Prep school was a great experience for me. I’m glad I did it,” said Williams, who added four rebounds. “It opened a lot of doors, and I met a lot of new faces. But it was great to finish back where it all started. It was great to end my high school season on top of the world.”
Six other Blue players scored in double digits — Middletown Christian’s Dre Shores (14), Ross’ Landen Angel (12), Hamilton’s Zack Morgan (11), Talawanda’s Evan James (10), and Lakota East’s Jarrett Cox (12) and Jackson See (12) — in a hardwood track meet that featured little defense.
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Harrison’s Andy Marx was the lone Blue coach and said he found the All-Star experience to be highly enjoyable.
“These guys do a great job with this event and I always love to help, so it was a pleasure,” Marx said. “I can tell you from sitting on the bench, from the skills competition to the shooting contest to the game, it was a blast for the kids. That’s what it’s all about.
“It was really cool to see how they cheered for each other and tried to give each other good looks. In a game like this, you just try to get the ball moving a little bit and play off each other and crash the boards. It’s a bunch of really talented kids. That makes it awfully fun to coach.”
Madison sophomore guard Grant Whisman was the Red Player of the Game and the only individual to post a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds).
“I knew there was going to be a lot of shots taken and a lot of opportunities to get rebounds, so I didn’t just want to stand around and wait for my turn,” said Whisman, who plays for the Mid Ohio Pumas on the AAU circuit. “I wanted to get in and get rebounds and kick it back out or put it back up.
“This kind of game is different, but you just go out and play basketball and get in the flow of the game and everything comes easy.”
Cincinnati Christian’s Riley Reutener paced the Red with 16 points. Fairfield’s Devin Turner scored 13, Monroe’s Tristan Backas marked 11, and Fenwick’s C.J. Napier and Fairfield’s Blake Spaulding added 10 apiece.
“We just told our kids to play hard, share the basketball and have a good time,” said Lakota East’s Clint Adkins, who coached the Red squad along with David Lane of Ross. “It’ll be the last time a lot of these guys play a game in their school uniforms, so it’s a special thing.
“It’s a cool event to celebrate the athletes in Butler County, both boys and girls. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.”
Players are so used to hearing their high school coaches emphasize defense that a nonstop shootout like this requires some mental adjustments.
“I knew going into it that I couldn’t get my feathers ruffled because we weren’t going to guard anybody tonight,” Adkins said. “That’s OK, though. You just go out and compete and have fun.”
“As it starts to get down to the final minutes, you start to see a little defense because you just don’t want to lose,” Williams said. “No one likes to lose.”
He was happy to get one last chance to compete with and against Greater Miami Conference players. Williams did a little pregame trash talking with Spaulding.
“I told him I can’t lose to him,” Williams said. “It wasn’t going to happen.”
His collegiate plans have yet to be finalized. Williams, who said he’ll make an announcement in the next couple weeks, spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Middletown before going the prep-school route.
“I spent the year previously at Hargrave Military Academy (in Virginia) and transferred to Lincoln,” Williams said. “I had to find my own way. I was struggling being a little homesick, so I just felt the best option was for me to come back here.”
All 26 players who dressed scored points in Saturday’s game, which had two 20-minute halves. Twenty-three 3-pointers were converted.
Hamilton’s Cameron Benson (6 points, 11 rebounds) and Badin’s Jakob Tipton (8 points, six boards) made solid contributions for the Blue. Morgan, a senior guard, finished with a flourish after scoring just 7 points in his HHS varsity career.
Coaches weren’t allowed to coach their own athletes, so Adkins was defeated by two of his East players, Cox and See.
“If I’m going to lose to two of my players, those would be two guys I wouldn’t mind losing to,” Adkins said. “But I’ll definitely hear about that until they graduate and leave for college. You’ve got to have thick skin.”
See swept the pregame activities, winning the 3-point and ball-handling competitions.
Madison’s Levi McMonigle and Backas both collected seven rebounds for the Red. Fenwick’s Caleb Davis and Reutener had six apiece.
BLUE (117): Evan James 4 0 10 (one rebound), Landen Angel 4 0 12 (five rebounds), Cameron Benson 3 0 6 (11 rebounds), E.J. Williams 7 3 17 (four rebounds), Jarrett Cox 6 0 12 (three rebounds), Jakob Tipton 4 0 8 (six rebounds), Zack Morgan 5 1 11 (five rebounds), Dre Shores 6 2 14 (five rebounds), Dylan Zimmerman 0 2 2 (four rebounds), Jackson See 4 0 12 (five rebounds), Jordan Robinette 4 0 9 (one rebound), Ty Hornsby 1 0 2 (six rebounds), Jarod Hamlin 1 0 2 (four rebounds). Totals: 49-8-117 (60 rebounds)
RED (100): Devin Turner 5 0 13 (three rebounds), Blake Spaulding 4 0 10 (three rebounds), Matt Oehler 1 0 3 (two rebounds), Grant Whisman 6 0 14 (10 rebounds), Levi McMonigle 1 3 5 (seven rebounds), Caleb Davis 1 0 2 (six rebounds), Tyrevis Hill 1 1 4 (five rebounds), Tristan Backas 5 0 11 (seven rebounds), Riley Reutener 6 3 16 (six rebounds), Johnny Nimmo 2 1 5 (two rebounds), Trent Allen 2 0 4 (two rebounds), C.J. Napier 5 0 10 (four rebounds), Connor Kinnett 1 0 3 (one rebound). Totals: 40-8-100 (58 rebounds)
3-pointers: B 11 (See 4, Angel 4, James 2, Robinette), R 12 (Turner 3, Spaulding 2, Whisman 2, Hill, Backas, Reutener, Oehler, Kinnett)