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Winning a priority for West’s Henderson in Butler County All-Star game

Bryana Henderson earned a pair of honors Saturday afternoon in the second annual All-Butler County All-Star girls basketball game.

But the Lakota West High School junior guard seemed most pleased by her Red team’s 79-73 victory over the Blue at the Hamilton Athletic Center.

“Winning is very important, especially when you play for Lakota West,” said Henderson, the Red Player of the Game and winner of the pregame ball-handling contest. “(Andy) Fishman expects a lot out of us, and I think I carried that out here on the floor.”

Henderson tallied 13 of her 17 points in the second half and added 10 rebounds for the Red, which also got double-digit scoring from Cincinnati Christian’s Grace Edmonston (11) and Hannah Randall (10).

Edgewood’s Cierra Lipps added 9 points to the winning effort and was the 3-point champion. Fairfield’s Journee Hicks and Madison’s Kenzi Saunders chipped in 8 points apiece, and Hicks grabbed seven boards.

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“We had a lot of good guards that got some timely steals and finished their shots off drives,” said Middletown Christian coach Ken Yablonsky, who shared Red coaching duties with Middletown’s Kevin Aldridge and Hamilton’s Harry Phillips.

“Everybody had a smile on their face. They came here ready to play and enjoyed each other’s company. It was an honor and a joy to coach these guys because they understand the game. They really know how to play.”

Yablonsky said the game plan wasn’t complicated, describing it like this: “Coach Phillips sat ’em down and said, ‘The play call from the bench is just play and have fun.’ ”

The 5-foot-5 Henderson averaged 4.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game this season as West advanced to the Division I regional finals.

She said the All-Star experience was “really fun.”

“There was a lot of talent out here. It really pushed me,” Henderson said. “It’s good to play against these players, but it’s also good to play with them.”

The Red jumped out to a 27-9 lead and appeared to be cruising in the 40-minute affair (two 20-minute halves), but the Blue kept coming and cut the deficit to 4 twice in the last five minutes.

Middletown’s Aubriana Bellard was the Player of the Game for the Blue, collecting 22 points and 10 boards. Lakota East’s Jordan Stanley had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Talawanda’s Kyra Koontz and Badin’s Emily Maher each scored 8 points.

Monroe’s Chad Allen and Cincinnati Christian’s Paul Owens coached the Blue. Owens has resigned from CCS, but was happy to participate Saturday.

“I thought it went pretty well for an all-star game,” said Owens, noting that he enjoyed watching and listening to Talawanda’s Addie Brown (unable to play after recent ear surgery) on the bench during the game. “We were missing a lot of shots early in the game, but we got up and down the floor and hung in there.”

Bellard, a senior guard, turned in a consistent performance. She had 13 points in the first half and 9 thereafter.

“I didn’t do so well in last year’s all-star game, so I wanted to make sure this time I came and did my best and tried my hardest,” said Bellard, who represented Middletown Christian last year. “I’m a senior. This is it for me for high school, so I wanted to leave my mark.”

East’s Jessica Motley contributed 7 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue. Olivia Chaney of Ross (6 points, nine boards) and Aliyah Burks of Middletown (6 points, six boards) also played well.

Bellard said she was proud of her team’s comeback effort.

“I wish we would’ve gotten a dub, but we fought hard,” Bellard said. “I love all-star games. You come out with a bunch of great players who just know how to play and move the ball and work. You get to have fun with each other.”

She’s still contemplating her collegiate future and said a Division III school seems likely, mentioning places like Wilmington, Wittenberg and Wooster.

Bellard said transferring from MCS to Middletown was the right move for her.

“I loved my old school. I loved the small, Christian environment I had there, but I wanted to become a better player,” she said. “I knew transferring from a D-IV to a D-I school would push me to be the best player I could be, and it did. It pushed me to be faster, stronger and greater overall at basketball. I’m more prepared for college now.”

Owens posted an 84-78 record in seven years at the Cincinnati Christian helm. He has no immediate coaching plans, but hopes to return to the bench at some point down the road.

“My general feeling is that it’s time for a change for both parties,” Owens said of stepping down from CCS. “Our numbers are starting to dwindle a little bit. I think from a school’s standpoint, anytime you get a new coach, the program gets a little bit of an uptick in terms of participation and just general excitement. Hopefully some of those multisport athletes will decide to come back and play basketball and give them more numbers.”

Red 43-36—79

Blue 34-39—73

RED (79): Bryana Henderson 7 3 17 (10 rebounds), Sophie Sloneker 2 1 5 (three rebounds), Cierra Lipps 4 0 9 (two rebounds), Kenzi Saunders 4 0 8 (four rebounds), Grace Edmonston 5 1 11 (two rebounds), Zoe Stephen 0 0 0 (three rebounds), Zahrya Bailey 1 0 2 (five rebounds), Journee Hicks 3 2 8 (seven rebounds), Hannah Randall 4 1 10 (one rebound), Sami Wilkins 2 0 5 (three rebounds), Hayley Harmon 2 0 4 (four rebounds). Totals: 34-8-79 (44 rebounds)

BLUE (73): Aliyah Burks 1 4 6 (six rebounds), Arielle Scalf 0 0 0 (five rebounds), Jordan Stanley 5 4 14 (eight rebounds), Aubriana Bellard 10 1 22 (10 rebounds), Olivia Chaney 2 2 6 (nine rebounds), Anna Crawford 0 0 0 (three rebounds), Julia Nunn 0 0 0 (one rebound), Kyra Koontz 3 2 8 (three rebounds), Ellie Veal 1 0 2 (two rebounds), Jessica Motley 1 4 7 (11 rebounds), Emily Maher 3 0 8 (two rebounds). Totals: 26-17-73 (60 rebounds)

3-pointers: R 3 (Lipps, Randall, Wilkins), B 4 (Maher 2, Motley, Bellard)

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