Players from five different schools made up the Missouri boys all-stars in the 36th annual McDonald's/Herald-Whig Classic on Saturday night, but that didn't stop the Show-Me State squad from handing Illinois a 131-73 defeat, the most lopsided margin of victory in the 36-year history of the game.
In fact, combining forces with players from other schools was part of why the Missouri boys were so successful.
"It's that chemistry that we always wanted," Monroe City guard C.E. Talton, who droppped 35 points in the win, said. "We always wanted to play on the same team but we never could so we got the chance to play with each other and relying off each other and just cheering each other on the whole way."
Talton was specifically referring to playing alongside Hannibal guard Dezi Jones, who turned in a record-setting performance with 45 points, but that sentiment carried throughout the team.
At one point in the second half, Talton and Jones both had 33 points and were four away from tying the 11-year record of 37 points, set by Ben Kearse in 2008, but instead of rooting against each other Jones was cheering for Talton to keep up the scoring.
"That's my boy, we've been playing against each other for a while and we're good friends," Jones said. "I like to cheer him on and see him succeed and he likes to see me succeed. We have a good relationship."
Missouri coach Marty Hull, who coached Jones at Hannibal, said having Talton on the court as well was like having a clone of the Pirate great, but their accomplishments overshadowed a great night from many of the Show-Me State boys.
"You also take for granted that Ragar (McKinney) probably hit four or five threes on his own, and he's capable of getting 30 just as easy as Dezi and C.E., but he's as unselfish as it gets," Hull said. "He kept feeding and kept passing."
McKinney from Palmyra finished with 17 points and his Panther teammate Bill Nunnelly had 20.
"Going down in transition, hitting threes and attacking, everyone was just on tonight," Talton said. "It's fun basketball when everyone is hitting."
Defense wins?all-star games
While the Missouri boys put up an impressive amount of points, the third-most ever in the contest, it was a tough defensive showing that truly let them end a nine-game losing skid to the Land of Lincoln.
"On Monday when we started practice, I asked them, ‘Do you want to play defense or do you want to play an all-star game?'" Hull said. "They said they wanted to play defense to win, so we put in a switching man-to-man and hedging and we worked hard at defense also."
Even when the offense could get going a bit for the Illinois boys, Quincy High School graduate Jaeden Smith said it never felt like there was enough margin of error to make a comeback.
"They were just matching it. They only missed like four shots I think," said Smith, who finished with 16 points. "We just wanted to win every four minutes because of the media timeouts, but every time we would try to make a comeback they would match it and it just went that way."
That ability to match and get out on the break after defensive stops was absolutely in the plans for the Show-Me State boys.
"We said from the get-go that we had to run, just run, run, run, because we had really had the advantage there in quickness," Hull said. "I just said, ‘I don't care who gets the ball, you just lead the break and everybody else just run.'
"We got several fast-break and several pull-up threes that I'm not used to seeing that, but when you have players like Bill and Ragar and C.E. and Dezi, even Brody Smith can pull up and hit threes too. There were so many kids and so many weapons."
The victory for Missouri ended a nine-game losing streak, but it also was only the third win for the west side of the Mississippi River in the 36 years of the game. The last time Missouri beat Illinois, Hull was on the other side as the head coach for the Land of Lincoln, so even with a 27-point lead at halftime, he said he wasn't comfortable.
"It was probably halfway through the second half," Hull said of when he accepted his team's victory. "As a coach, I kept telling them, ‘Keep your foot on the gas, the way we are playing is what's working.'"
While a 58-point victory doesn't totally erase three decades of dominance for Illinois, Talton said it was nice exorcising some demons on their cross-state rivals.
"It feels great, they talked a little trash before the game even started saying it's a guaranteed win, so yeah we made sure we came here and got the job done and that was great," he said.
Smith was the one to make the guarantee of victory for tIllinois, and he said while that prediction didn't come true it was still a great experience.
"It was super fun, I knew they were really good players and I just wanted to have a lot of fun with the game," he said. "I'm obviously going to be confident in our team because we had some good players, we just didn't shoot it as well as we thought we were going to and they did really well."