It is extremely hard to steal the spotlight from Tyra Buss. But, C.J. Diel managed to do just that at Wabash Valley College Saturday night.
Not on the court, of course, where the two-time Ms. Basketball was her usual dazzling self at times despite a one-month competitive layoff, scoring 46 points to lead her team to victory in the Tri-Sate All-Stars girls game at Spencer Sports Center.
Diel, the 6-foot-5 senior with over 100 career blocks at Mt. Carmel High School, left his mark after the boys all-star game where he scored 13 points with three 3-point field goals and two blocks.
“I’ve decided to turn in my sneakers tonight and be done,” Diel surprised reporters with. “This is my goodbye to basketball.”
What a swan song it was then for Diel. “I came out and felt good. It was my last game, might as well give her heck,” he said, adding the gap of time between the end of the season and now “took a toll on me. I was worn out.”
Buss scored the first 16 points of Team Red’s 71-60 victory. The reds played the whole game with only six players, three from Mt. Carmel (Buss, Alex Rosignol and Reagan Keepes) along with Breah Keim of Marshall, McKenna Elder of Palestine and Valerie Abendroth of Vincennes Lincoln.
“I hadn’t run since before spring break, so I was a little tired,” lamented Rosignol, who finished her basketball career with three points as she turns her attention to college volleyball at SIU in the fall.
“Coach said ‘Are you ready to play 20 minutes?’ I said “Are you serious?”’
At least Lady Aces coach Tim Willis, who directed the reds, was sympathetic to her concern. “It’s been a while since these girls played competitive basketball. We rotated as best we could,” he said.
Keepes, who finished the night with five points, appeared to be all smiles all night, wanting to get the most out of her final basketball game before heading to John A. Logan on a golf scholarship in the fall. “There was a little huffing and puffing” because of the small team, “but it was fun playing again,” she said.
As for the final time the three will play in public together, Keepes admitted it “was kind of sad.” Rosignol said she was glad that “since it was our last game together, that we won.”
Players were split into teams wearing Wabash Valley school colors. Team Black was led by Jalisha Swope of Evansville Bosse with 13 points. Olivia Hunt of Castle, one of four girls to sign scholarship papers to play at WVC next year in a short ceremony before the game, scored 10.
Joining Hunt in signing were: Castle teammate Aubrey Carter, Nikki Meunsterman of Evansville Central (by her own admission a “distant relative” of Mater Dei superstar Maura Meunsterman, who could not play because of softball commitments) and Sidney Heldt of Wood Memorial.
In the boys game, the Mt. Carmel trio of Diel, Riley Raber and Austin Thompson (later joined by Caleb Kline) scored the first seven points of the game for Team Black. Diel went inside, followed by a 3-ball by Raber, then a rebound basket by Thompson.
Their last lead was 32-29 after a Diel basket. After that, it was all Team Red, coached by Princeton and ex-Mt. Carmel coach Ryan Haywood. The reds went on a 36-16 surge to gain the upper hand, then soon followed that with a 23-point run to put the wraps on a 102-64 win.
“Even though the guys come out acting like it’s no big deal, I think they were a little nervous playing in this game,” Haywood said. “Once they got the butterflies out and started sharing we told them to attack just like they would on their regular team, and knock the shots down. They did.”
The reds were the smaller team heading in but they were the better marksmen. Rend Lake-signee Perry Farrow of Evansville Bosse, who led the city in scoring, finished game-high with 24 points. Princeton’s Kreig McRoberts, being recruited by WVC, put together a well-rounded 21-point game, including four 3-pointers.
Beau Dedmond of Evansville Central, scored 17, while Northview’s Jim Mace scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
Team Black, coached by Lady Warrior assistant coach John White, was led by Jashaud Fleming of Union Co., Ky. who scored 16 points. After Diel’s 13, Chase Salmon of Seymour, Ind. was next with 11 points.
Raber scored five points and Thompson four to round out the Mt. Carmel scoring totals in the game.