The best in the Central Valley played at Fresno City College on June 30

The North-South game in the 48th Annual City County All Star Basketball game featured a couple of Apaches — Morice “Mo” Norris and Isaiah “I-Rod” Rodriguez.

And both made outstanding plays at Fresno City College on June 30, earning the respect of what was decidedly the best basketball talent of the class of 2018. But they weren’t the only ones from Sanger.

Al Alvarado III brought his brother Mark Alvarado and Mike Paredes to fill out his coaching team. Both serve as assistants during the regular season at Sanger High. Of course Rodriguez and Norris were familiar with the Alvarado system and his style. 

The other high school players not so much.

But they definitely got used to it, blowing out the South team 129-85 in front of what appeared to be about a three-quarters capacity crowd in the Rams’ main gym. 

“They weren’t ready,” said Roosevelt’s Emountay Moultrie, who played for North, referring to the South team. “They didn’t come out.”

Moultrie said it could have gone either way.

The North-South game followed the East-West game and two girls all star games at the Fresno City gym that same day. To establish the game rosters, coaches drafted players so athletes from the same school sometimes found themselves playing against a teammate.

Apache and outside shooter Isaiah Cuevas played for coach Tim Hurt of Kerman on the East team. West beat East 121-90.

South had no shortage of talent. Under coach Joe Vasquez of Immanuel, the team had William Pallesi and Tiveon Stroud of Selma and Cam’ron Wilson of Central plus other players from Edison, Lemoore, Immanuel, Clovis, Kerman, Madera South and Sunnyside.

“It was awesome just to sit back and let the kids play,” Alvarado said via text. “They were all stars — great point guards, shooters, a couple bigs and everyone was very long and athletic. I felt truly honored to have been selected, and it was an amazing experience.”

As in every all star match, the emotion and will to win wasn’t quite the same as playing for the home team. The score indicated more of an offensive contest, and North had it dialed in. Bullard’s Andrew Parker and Central’s Cash Williams represented themselves well at the basket, scoring often. 

On the outside for North, Edison’s Jatarious Johnson bombed in three pointers early in the contest. And Sunnyside’s Amari Stroud thrilled the audience with multiple dunks.

Nor did the Apaches disappoint. Norris fought his way inside and climbed the air ladder to the basket. And when he couldn’t, he found a spot outside the arc from downtown. Rodriguez nabbed a key rebound early, got another on the offensive boards and an assist. He also scored, doing what he did best during the regular season under the basket, playing cleanup.

After the game, Norris and Rodriguez posed for several shots and caught up with their temporary teammates. Conversations continued throughout the gym, and many stuck around.

“I like them all,” Norris said. “I have friendships with some of them outside basketball (too).”

And answering a question as to the level of talent in this particular group, Norris said it was high. “Good class of athletes,” he said.

“They’re really good players,” Rodriguez agreed.

And he was off with Zoie Buchanan to get dinner. Rodriguez frequently had food on his mind after regular season games — like most athletes. 

Moultrie didn’t mention dinner. He had an entire cheering section who came out to support their favorite player. “They come to all my games,” he said. “They’re my brothers.”

He said he plans to play at Gavilan College in Gilroy.

Johnson, one of the last to leave and his girlfriend gave him the look, also said the talent level was high. And he said his takeaway was “learning how to share the ball.”

In addition, Ray Alvarado, Al’s big brother, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame along with Amy Parrish and Chris Hernandez. The elder Alvarado started his coaching career at Sanger High with girls basketball. He has been head coach of the women’s program at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia for the past eight years.

In the girls games, East beat West 56-48 and South beat North 75-67.

 The reporter can be contacted by email at sangerheraldsports@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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