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Smiling seniors enjoy fond farewell at Valor Bowl basketball games

WEST CHESTER >> Fun and competition in the name of a great cause were the order of the evening at West Chester Henderson Wednesday as the best high school basketball seniors in the area got together for the third annual Valor Bowl All-Star games.

“It was fun, it was an absolute honor,” said Downingtown West coach Dave Johnson, who along with Coatesville’s Tem Mack, guided the West squad in the girls game. “These girls put in hard work for three or four years and it’s good they get recognized. A great cause, great people. That’s what’s it all for.”

The game benefits Special Olympics of Chester County. Along with its big brother, the Valor Bowl football game, to be held on June 1 at West Chester University, the two have combined to raise over $450,000. Organizers Scott Allison and Joe Carroll hope to add at least an additional $45,000 this year.

“A lot of good kids. You see them throughout the years and you only know them as basketball players. Here, you get to see them as kids, and it reinforces that we have good student-athletes and we’re lucky to work with them.

The girls went first, and saw the West claw back from a 15-4 first-period deficit to pull out a 42-40 victory over the East.

DeeDee Irwin of Coatesville, who is headed to Lincoln University, led all scorers with 14 points. Emily Shallow of Oxford, signed to Immaculata, added seven.

“We definitely had a lot of fun playing against a lot of our friends,” said Irwin. “We had practice where we all joked around, but once we got on the court, we had to seal the deal.”

Viki Kneis of Henderson paced the East with 11 points and Brynn Cullinan, also of Henderson, added 10.

While the game was taken seriously, the fun aspect was never too far away. Case in point, Kneis, who along with Kaitlyn Boyle of West Chester East, played with smiles on their faces for the entire time they were on the court.

“It was all fun,” said Kneis, who is headed to Eastern University. “I was with my friends from other schools, people we just made friends with, people who might’ve been enemies during the season. It was a lot fun. We played hard, but we had a great time. We didn’t care who won.”

Kneis also reflected on her last game on her home court.

“Don’t make me sad,” she said. “It felt like it was a real game since it was on our court, so I was used to it. But, it’s definitely sad.”

With the East down, 42-40, with 2.7 seconds left, Neff called timeout and drew up a play, despite being heckeled by Johnson for pulling out a chalkboard.

“If you’re going to play the game, you might as well try to win it,” said a laughing Neff after the game.

Over in the boys game, the East roared back from an early deficit to post a 76-66 win. Great Valley’s Robert Geiss had a game-high 14 points. Rustin’s Brandon Frazier added 11.

Coatesville’s Kamau Brickus scored 21 points to lead the West.

“It was a great experience,” said Brickus. “I had a lot of fun being on the court with these guys for the last time. Good times. It was competitive from the start.”

“I thought these guys were unselfish, which is a tough ask for seniors at an All-Star Game, but these guys showed character,” said East coach Mike Troy of Conestoga.

NOTES >> Geiss and Tim Durant of Rustin will be pulling double duty, playing in the football game also. … Brandon Frazier of Rustin stirred the crowd with the only dunk of the game. … Katie Couser of Downingtown West, who volunteers with the Special Olympics, got the loudest ovation during player introductions. … Between the two games, the Special Olympians took to the hardwood for a game. Zac Acre brought the house down when he drained a long two two-pointer from the top of the foul line just before the buzzer. … Lorna Cornelly and Michael Rouhlack were the honorary captains for the boys game. Ethan Mullin performed the duties for the girls game.

West 42, East 40
East: Cullinan 4 0-0 10; Bertrando 2 2-2 6; Kneis 5 1-2 11; Shanahan 1 0-0 2; Detweiler 1 1-3 3; Boyle 1 1-4 3; Lewis 0 0-0 0; Costin 1 0-0 2; Zavitsky 1 1-2 3. Totals: 21 6-13 40.
West: Salley 1 2-5 4; Warley 2 3-4 7; Sendi 0 0-0 0; Irwin 6 2-5 14; Brown 2 0-0 4; Dienes 2 0-0 4; Couser 0 0-0 0; Shallow 1 5-5 7; Hennessey 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 12-19 42.
East     15    10    5    10 — 40
West    4    12    18    8 — 42
3-point goals: Cullinan 2.

East 76, West 66
East: Martin 0 0-0 0; Long 3 0-0 6; Geiss 6 0-0 14; Piel 1 1-2 3; Dunn 3 0-0 8; Burich 3 2-2 9; Loper 3 0-0 6; Frazier 4 2-4 11; Durant 2 1-4 6; Shapiro 4 0-2 12. Totals: 28 6-14 76.
West: Kozinski 4 1-2 9; Browne 3 0-0 7; Brickus 8 4-10 21; Boulware 1 1-2 3; Desrocher 3 1-2 7; Cahill 3 0-0 7; Gordon 4 0-0 8; Carson 2 1-1 8. Totals: 28 8-17 66.
East    16    14    24    22 — 76
West     23    14    14    15 — 66
3-point goals: Geiss 2, Burich, Frazier, Durant, Shapiro 4, Browne, Brickus, Cahill.

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