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Two games for a good cause

Senior players from Little Eight and Pheasant Conference teams get together for a photo after their all-star game that was hosted by Hillcrest Lutheran Academy on April 8. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Senior girls basketball players from teams in the Little Eight and Pheasant Conferences get together one last time for an all-star game that helped raise money for families from the West Central Area and Hancock communities. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

The weather outside made it feel like the winter season should still be going on in the area, so boys and girls basketball players from the Pheasant and Little Eight Conferences decided to get together one last time this year.

The two conferences played a boys and girls all-star game on April 8 at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy High School in Fergus Falls for senior athletes.

It not only brought together some of the top players from each league, but it also raised money for families from the West Central Area and Hancock communities. Proceeds went to the Overson family from WCA after 18-year-old Carter Overson died in a vehicle crash on March 17. Money also went to families from the Hancock area affected by a crash involving a Hancock Public School transport van and a semi on March 12. The event raised more than $3,400.

"We wanted to help them out a little bit and change the perspective of the game to be a benefit for them," Hillcrest Academy Activities Director Craig Nersten said. "We didn't really have any expectations to be honest. I thought it was fantastic. The people who came from all the different communities were very generous, and we had a blast doing this."

Nersten wondered aloud in December why the two leagues do not host an all-star game for their seniors as a way to send them out. The ADs in the conferendes agreed it was a good idea and decided to use the opportunity as a way to benefit some families going through a difficult time.

Everyone who attended the games could give a free-will donation. There were also three-point shootouts and other fundraising games at the two halftimes that helped raise money.

"I coached the Heart O' Lakes Conference All-Star game back in 2002 and this was exactly the same in terms of seeing all of these competitors coming together to play," WCA boys basketball coach Kraig Hunter said. "There were a lot of good friendships developed between the players. We are all competitors during the year, but the players came together in a fun, loose atmosphere and entertained the crowd for a good cause. It was really fun to see the relationships the players had with each other."

Many area players were a part of the festivities. On the girls' side, Megan Dreger and Megan Benzinger of Parkers Prairie played, along with Brianna Kreft of WCA.

Logan Paulson, Dawson Staples, Brady Sabolik and Ross Anderson of WCA were on the rosters in the boys game, along with Ryan Blake, Matt Ferley and Austin Koep from Parkers Prairie and Taylor Bitzan, James Strese, Darrin Wibstad and Jake Hintermeister from Brandon-Evansville.

"I think these kinds of events are what make small communities so special," B-E boys basketball coach Trent Hintermeister said. "We were able to enjoy a night together and raise a little money to help those who are in need. I really hope to see this all-star game continue."

Nersten said that is the plan going forward. He didn't hesitate when asked if this is an event that the schools will likely continue doing, as a way to not only bring the senior players together for one last high school game, but to help out local families where needed.

"That's the goal," Nersten said. "We certainly hope there's no reason to have benefits, but at the same time that would probably be what we would do if there was any families in need in the two conferences. Just make it a community-wide thing where communities come together and really be generous to those people who are hurting."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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