As the first contestant in Thursday night's dunk contest at the Frederick County all-star game, Chad Yard was tasked with the responsibility of kicking the night off the right way.
So he took the ball, began a swooping route from the left wing, rose up, cocked his right hand all the way back and crammed it so hard into the front of the rim that his body was upended parallel to the court as he crash-landed onto the Gov. Thomas Johnson High School floor.
Brendan Wharton doubled over in laughter as the rest of Yard's County teammates playfully chided him — Yard would laugh it off as well and finish with a team-high 15 points at night's end — and the mood for the rest of the evening was effectively set.
In a very relaxed and lighthearted finish to the season that stood somewhere between a casual pick-up game and a gym class tournament in demeanor, the City team — comprised of players from Thomas Johnson, Frederick, Tuscarora, Maryland School for the Deaf and New Life — came out with a 79-77 victory over County — comprised of Urbana, Oakdale, Linganore, Catoctin, Brunswick, Middletown, and Walkersville.
The star of the show unanimously went to New Life's Connor Brown, who wowed the crowd with an aerial display in the pregame dunk contest — he eventually beat Thomas Johnson's Eric Blankson and Linganore's Seth Myers in the final — and finished as the game's Most Valuable Player.
“It's pretty fun,” Brown said. “It's only Frederick County people that kind of underlook me. It's like, they don't really know my potential so I come out here and show them what I got because we don't get to play public schools.”
Brown was one of few to put in substantial effort into the game. Even the refs were nonchalant.
“I want no fouls,” joked the scorekeeper with the head official before the game. “No calls, no whistles.”
And the whistles were generally swallowed throughout, letting the clock run — it only stopped on free throws, which there were suspiciously few of — and the boys play. There were a few highlights, namely from Brown. With 2 minutes, 42 seconds left in the first half, he took a pass on the wing and beat his defender to the lane, leaving a wide open look at the rim. He put home a one-handed dunk that was arguably better than most of the dunks that the other contestants attempted in the pregame contest.
“Finished with a bang,” said Brown, who's looking at the College of Charleston, among several others, for next year. “We'll just see where God opens doors.”
Aside from that, however, Thursday was stand-up comedy on a basketball court. During the 3-point contest, Thomas Utt waited for eight seconds to take his final shot to ensure it fell as the buzzer went off. Oakdale's Kevin Heine, who won the 3-point contest at the Governor's Challenge over the holidays, opted out of this one, saying, “I figured I'd keep it at one.”
Teammate John Bush represented the Bears instead.
“I was hoping,” Heine said of an Oakdale sweep of 3-point contests this year. “I was hoping.”
Meanwhile, Wharton and a few others skipped the halftime contests to “live tweet,” as Wharton called it, from the locker room. They didn't appear too concerned about how Utt finished in the contest, which Thomas Johnson's Michael Lango eventually won.
As far as the game went, Tuscarora's Carney Bernard hit the winning free throws to give City a 79-77 victory. Ian Grife scored 12 for County while Heine chipped in 11 and Myers added 10. City's leaders were Brown (15 points), Bernard (10 points) and Marcus Anderson (nine points).
The girls game, which was equally as mellowed out, was also won by City, 61-51, on a 23-point performance from Courtney Davis. Urbana's Claudia Lohr won the 3-point contest, the second straight Hawk to do it.
“It's really good. It's my last game playing with these girls,” Davis said. “It's just a good experience all around.”
All proceeds from the game, which is put together by Thomas Johnson girls coach Darryl Whiten, enable the Frederick County Coaches Association to award two Frederick County athletes with a $500 scholarship at the end of the year.