LONGVIEW - Lady Fishermen coach Ned Bittner's White team was ahead 21-16 mid-way through the first 20-minute half, but the Red team with more depth at the guard position caught them near intermission and eked out a 69-66 win in the twelfth annual Lower Columbia Area High School All-Star Basketball Games on Tuesday, March 15 at Truman Myklebust Gym on the campus of Lower Columbia College.
Kenzi Wirkkala and Alexa Wirkkala from Ilwaco were for the first time ever happy Bittner's squad was on the losing end because he has been their coach throughout their high school careers. They were on the winning Red squad and hit back-to-back treys to give their team a 36-35 advantage near halftime. Kenzi Wirkkala finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds and Alexa Wirkkala added 10.
"Both Kenzi and Alexa hit a couple of important three's' and both played very well," Bittner said. "I was proud of the way they played. We are not allowed to coach our own kids in an all-star game according to the WIAA."
On the boys' side Naselle's Leonel Mendoza and Ilwaco's Karl Oman and Bobby Byrd were standouts for the Red team. Fishermen Kyle Breckinridge was on the White team and canned a key three-pointer and "rebounded very well" according to his coach Kip Meinhardt and helped spark his team to an 86-81 victory.
Mendoza finished with 10 points and his three-pointer that gave the Red team a 26-18 lead ten minutes into the contest. It was then that the White squad went on a 23-9 tear and was ahead 44-35 at intermission. "Leo carried us for most of the year and he played his best basketball at the end of the season. He had a great senior year. It was no surprise that he ended his career by playing well in this game," Comets coach Brian Macy praised. Last year Naselle's Manny Lopez was MVP in the all-star contest.
Breckinridge finished with 11 points and posted an unofficial double-double in rebounds. Oman finished with 10 points, but "looked more to pass the basketball" according to Coach Meinhardt who watched the game as a fan. Oman finished scoring with an old-fashioned three-point play. Bobby Byrd scored two points and also rebounded well. "All three of our guys played very good games against the area's best players. It was a nice accomplishment for them to be included and I'm proud of the way they all played," Meinhardt said.
Bittner added, "All of the kids represented our schools well. These are great games, especially for our players. It may be a bit more difficult for us because we aren't as familiar with a lot of the other players as the Longview-Kelso players are. It was a great experience for our kids."