Some of the top seniors in the area will take center stage for the 13th annual Mid-Plains Area All-Star games on Saturday at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium.
The showcase brings 43 area hoopers from over 24 different schools in the area, consisting of a girls game scheduled for 5 p.m., followed by a 6:45 p.m. tipoff for boys.
For Hershey’s Ashley Hassett, who averaged 15.5 points per game and led the Lady Panthers to a 15-7 record this season, stepping onto the hardwood at North Platte Community College’s McDonald-Belton Gymnasium on Saturday marks the first of many future home games.
"Yeah, it already feels like home to me," the 5-foot-10 NPCC commit said. "I’ve been in that gym a lot between open gyms, SPVA and college games. I love the atmosphere."
The future Knight will represent the Gold team and share the sideline with a familiar face in her high school coach at Hershey Michael Jorgenson, who makes his return as the Gold team’s coach following a victory last year.
"It will be great to have one last opportunity to coach Ashley," Jorgenson said. "She’s such a competitor and awesome teammate. I’m excited to see her continue her career at NPCC and help coach (Jeff) Thurman build a solid program that the surrounding communities can get behind."
Hassett and Jorgenson will team up alongside other area standouts in Maywood/Hayes Center’s Jayden Widener, Mullen’s Kaitlyn Crowe and Arapahoe’s Mariah Watson to name a few.
On the opposite end of the court, Sandhills/Thedford’s Bec Ray will coach the Black team led by the St. Pat’s trio of Kaleigh Kummer, Abbi Allberry and Calli Groseth. Kummer, a UNK commit and St. Pat’s all-time leading scorer, is coming off a stellar senior season in which she averaged 15.9 ppg en route to leading the Irish to a 24-2 record and a fourth consecutive state tournament appearance.
Kummer, Allberry and Groseth join other scoring threats in Hitchcock County’s Kyleigh Scott, Sandhills/Thedford’s Marlee Taylor, South Platte’s Caroline Stanley and Sidney’s Janay Brauer.
"It’s going to be a very competitive game," Jorgenson said. "I’m sure the players will give their families, friends and fans who come out for the game a great show. As a coach, I want every participant to have a great experience."
Hershey’s Dustin Jorgenson and North Platte’s Jimmy Pack will go head-to-head on the sidelines for the boys game, which will follow the girls.
Jorgenson admitted that although some faces on his Black team aren’t familiar, the opportunity to coach former players in Jacob Gosnell and Andrew Weitzel make it all worth it.
"They’re great kids and more time for those two to get to play together," Jorgenson said. "They’re leaders on the floor and have been role models for the younger kids in Hershey, so this is a good experience for them to have. I hope they enjoy it."
The 6-foot-9 Gosnell, a Concordia commit who averaged a double-double with 17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game this season, joins Panther teammate Weitzel along with other Class C1 and D1 standouts in Chase County’s Braden Space and Wauneta-Palisade’s Caid Doetker, Dennis Cavanaugh and Joel Maris.
"I haven’t seen a lot of these kids, but I want them all to have fun. You want it to be a competitive game and played at the highest level possible," Jorgenson said of his team. "That’s what you hope for, so I’d like to see them get up and down and really get after it, too."
There are also familiar faces on Pack’s Gold team with an addition of former Bulldogs Jack Mohr and Max Hayes of North Platte. Mohr and Hayes, along with McCook’s James Mockry and Valentine’s Jaydon Owen on the Black team, represent the only four Class B players invited to Saturday’s showcase.
"I just want to enjoy this experience and have fun," Mohr said. "I look forward to playing with some kids I have played with on select teams in the past, and even get to know some new people."
The Central Community College commit added that even those on the opposite team will evoke a feeling of familiarity.
"It will definitely feel nostalgic because I’ve played with Andrew (Weitzel) and Jacob (Gosnell) since I was little," Mohr said. "Even if we’re playing against each other, it’ll mean a lot to me just to have fun and play with them like in the good old days."
Other members of the Gold team include Paxton’s Jordan Callihan and Kaden Schow, Cozad’s Nate Neil and Sutherland’s Ryan Richardson to name a few.
Girls Gold team Girls Black team
Ashley Hassett, Hershey Abbi Allberry, St. Patrick’s
Brylie Hahn, Paxton Brooke Moench, Potter-Dix
Jayden Widener, M/HC Calli Groseth, St. Patrick’s
Joslyn North, Arapahoe Caroline Stanley, South Platte
Kaitlyn Crowe, Mullen Haylee Sitzman, Creek Valley
Katie Miles, Arthur County Janay Brauer, Sidney
Kourtney Safranek, A-M Kaleigh Kummer, St. Patrick’s
Kyla Wykert, Arthur Co. Kate Reader, Kimball
Mariah Watson, Arapahoe Kyleigh Scott, Hitchcock County
Rebecca Maring, A-M Madison Barner, Brady
Taylan Myers, A-M Marlee Taylor, Sandhills/Thedford
Madyson Arterburn, Brady
Boys Gold team Boys Black team
Cameron Meyer, Sutherland Andrew Weitzel, Hershey
Colton Storer, Arthur County Braden Space, Chase County
Isaac Reuter, Kimball Caid Doetker, Wauneta-Palisade
Jack Mohr, North Platte Carson Schroeder, Arapahoe
James Roberts, St. Patrick’s Dennis Cavanaugh, Wauneta-Palisade
Jordan Callihan, Paxton Jacob Gosnell, Hershey
Kaden Schow, Paxton James Mockry, McCook
Max Hayes, North Platte Jaydon Owen, Valentine
Nate Neil, Cozad Joel Maris, Wauneta-Palisade
Ryan Richardson, Sutherland Spencer Ross, Perkins County