REINBECK - AGWSR senior Austin Heitland came into Friday night's 21st annual North Iowa Cedar League Senior All-Star Game with the mindset of having fun and chucking up a lot of shots.
Heitland didn't know winning was that important and didn't even realize that a Most Valuable Player award was handed out at the conclusion of the contest.
Heitland had more than just fun though as his 17 points helped the West Division seniors to a 67-57 win over the East at Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School. Heitland also captured the MVP award and was the fan's choice for the slam dunk competition as well.
"Honestly coming into the game, I just wanted to have fun and chuck up some shots," said Heitland. "I didn't think it was that big of a deal to win. But then (BCLUW) Coach (Austin) Schlatter said he really wanted to beat them and that changed our attitudes a little bit."
The West seniors also got 11 points from Heitland's AGWSR teammate Derek Schipper and BCLUW guard Conner Ubben and West Marshall forward Reggie Gradwell put in 10 points.
The West used an 18-9 advantage in the second quarter to grab momentum and the East seniors never got closer than three the rest of the way.
"It's all about fun. The kids enjoyed playing with each other," said Schlatter, who coached the West seniors. "These are all good players on both teams. Everyone can shoot the ball, but having that unselfish attitude can be the difference, and I thought our guys did a really good job with that. That's what made the difference tonight I think."
Dike-New Hartford's Carson Parker scored a game-high 19 points and was named MVP of the East squad.
Heitland had a big first quarter with six of the West's 13 points, but the East led by two after 8 minutes. Parker also had six points in the period, two of which came on a fast-break dunk.
Ubben got six of his 11 points early in the second quarter and his final bucket put the West up 23-17. Following another dunk by Parker, Gradwell buried consecutive 3-pointers to push the home team's advantage to eight and the West led by seven at the break.
"It was a whole lot of fun. You don't get many chances to play with all the best players in the conference," said Heitland. "You may not like them during the season, but they turn out to be a lot cooler guys than you think."
Ubben continued to score in spurts as his final five points came in succession in the third quarter and it put the West up nine before a Heitland hook shot pushed the margin to double-digits.
The East got within six after a Parker 3 and two free throws from Derek Trotter of Wapsie Valley.
Two teammates from AGWSR responded as Schipper and Jacob Starr swished a pair of treys to extend the lead to 10.
Heitland made things official on the MVP front in the fourth quarter when he poured in nine points.
"I wanted the guys to have fun, but I wanted to win, too," said Schlatter. "I feel the West gets a bad rap sometimes. There are a lot of good players on the East and they get a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but we have a lot of good players, too."
The East roster included three players who will play basketball at the collegiate level next season. Parker will play at Upper Iowa University next season along with Mitch Eighme of Columbus. Jesup's Trevor Larson will head to Wartburg College.
But the West had a better collection of depth and talent. And it showed Friday night.
"I feel like the East gets a lot of credit because of the individual players over there, but we feel like we have the better team and are the better side of the conference," said Ubben. "I had a lot of fun. It was fun playing with this group of guys."