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BOYS AND GIRLS BB: Mr. Basketball Bidunga shines in Mem Gym finale

The Indiana All-Stars’ preparation week stopped in Kokomo on Wednesday night so local fans could see their home All-Stars one last time.

Mr. Basketball made sure it was a memorable occasion.

Kokomo’s Flory Bidunga, in an unfamiliar No. 1 jersey, signifying his spot this year as the top senior boys player in the state, scored the game’s first points on an alley-oop dunk and went on to record an impressive line. He finished with 34 points, 22 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots to help the Indiana All-Stars beat the Junior All-Stars 104-96 in a tune-up game for this weekend’s two-night series against the Kentucky All-Stars.

PHOTOS: Indiana All-Star games at Memorial Gym

He had plenty of help with Kokomo teammate Karson Rogers on the squad as well. They each assisted each other in the first half as they worked with their new teammates to come together in a short week of preparation before this weekend’s games.

“We know what we’re good at and what we have to work on to get better next time,” Bidunga said. “We’re just trying to work on this so we can get better next time.”

Next time is Friday with a game in Kentucky, followed by Saturday’s All-Star games in Indianapolis.

The Junior boys gave the All-Stars a test, and even took the lead at 45-43 late in the first half. At that point, Kokomo’s connection asserted itself. Bidunga fed Rogers for a bucket inside, then Bidunga scored the next four buckets to close the half on a personal 9-0 run. He had a basket in traffic, a layup off a lob pass, scored on another lob in from Rogers, and finally hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left when he was given space.

The All-Star boys led the Juniors 55-45 at halftime and maintained an advantage of a few baskets all second half, answering every challenge from the Junior team.

“This is super important,” Rogers said. “Now when we have to go against a good, talented Kentucky team and there’s a lot of faces we haven’t seen before, we just have to lock in and buy in together.”

Rogers finished with two points, two assists and four rebounds. Purdue-bound Jack Benter was the All-Stars’ second-leading scorer with 19 points that included 5-of-8 shooting from 3-land. K.J. Windham added 10 points and all 13 All-Stars scored.

“I thought we did a good job of sharing the ball,” said All-Star boys coach John Peckinpaugh, Kokomo’s coach. “Whenever you have 26 assists in an all-star game, that’s pretty good. We talked about that all week — being unselfish. This isn’t like most all-star games, it means something and I thought the guys were doing a good job of buying in and making the right play.

“This is a really good group of juniors. There’s a lot of talented kids there. Their length across the board gave us a good look [Wednesday night] and obviously they’re super skilled in shooting. That’ll get us ready for [Kentucky].”

Trent Sisley led the Juniors with 18 points and Braylon Mullins scored 13.

The All-Stars pushed the lead to 100-89 with 2:02 to play on a Bidunga spin move and fade-away jumper in the lane. He and Rogers subbed out with a little over a minute to play and victory in sight.

“It was pretty cool seeing them play one more time, seeing them get that standing ovation when they got announced and when they came off the floor together at the end,” Peckinpaugh said.

The Wildkat-to-Wildkat connection was a treat as well.

“I’d say that’s our chemistry coming along,” Rogers said of he and Bidunga assisting each other in the game. “Along the three years he’s been here, we’ve figured out how to play with each other and you guys have seen all season we can play well together.”

The All-Star team has been together only since the start of the week. Getting connected quickly on and off court is important.

“Obviously we have a pretty good connection between us,” Bidunga said of the All-Star squad. “We’ve played together so we know how we are. I think we have a pretty good connection.”

He expects a challenge from Kentucky.

“They’re tougher,” Bidunga said. “They can shoot. [We have to] just lock in on defense and you have to be ready for them.”

Rogers and Bidunga were both glad to be able to play in Kokomo one more time. The All-Star experience is brief but intense.

“It’s an honor to be part of a lot of talented guys like this, with a coach that’s coached me for three years in high school,” Rogers said. “It’s just a great experience and I’m soaking it all in. I’m really enjoying it.”

GIRLS GAME

The girls game was extremely competitive. The Indiana All-Star girls went up 27-6 after a quarter and it looked like a rout was in the making, but the Junior squad whittled the lead to 41-35 at halftime and 64-60 after three quarters, then tied and took the lead in the fourth.

The Junior girls took the lead for good 81-80 on a free throw by Maya Makalusky and held on for an 83-80 comeback upset of the senior squad.

Meredith Tippner led the Junior girls with 22 points. Makalusky scored 14. Juliann Woodard led the All-Star girls with 22 points and impressive inside-outside game.

Carroll standout Ally Harness played for the All-Stars and had two rebounds, and helped pressure two turnovers in the second half.