The MVP of the City/County All-Star Game stood alone at halfcourt after receiving his award plaque. Then before he could react, teammates and fans covered him in hugs and back slaps.
Parlier's Juan Ruelas, at 5-feet-7 the smallest player on the court, scored a game-high 18 points to lead County to a wild 99-97 comeback victory over City on Thursday night at Clovis North High.
"This is awesome," he said before being swamped again by fans.
In the early game, Central's Aujanee Armstrong scored 25 points as the City girls ran away from County 101-69 for a sixth consecutive victory.
County's boys rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit by heating up from beyond the arc and turning up its defense.
Before City knew it, Cheyanne Alcala's (Lemoore) two free throws gave County only its second lead at 96-95 with 1 minute, 16 seconds left. Jameal York of Edison scored on a drive to give City back the lead.
But Cougar Williams of Hanford, who finished with 10 points, put County ahead to stay with a quick transition basket, and Alcala made it a two-point game after sinking one of two free throws.
City had one last chance and, after a timeout, inbounded at halfcourt with 2.5 seconds remaining and got it into the hands of the most dangerous player on the court.
York, The Bee's Player of the Year, took the pass from Delvon Henderson in the forecourt and failed to make a move past defender Warren Moon. York was forced to pass off but too late.
"I kept telling the team to keep its composure. We just needed to fight through it," said York, who scored 16 points. "I was looking to pass and knew I only had seconds. By the time I got it off, time had expired."
County's comeback was fueled by 12 3-pointers, eight in the second half. Ruelas made three, including two late that gave County the momentum it needed to pull off the shocker over a team loaded with height, length and athleticism.
"It was our effort that did it," said Alcala, who had 10 points. "We started hitting our shots and wore them down."
York scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half. John Hedrington of Clovis East had 14 and DeAndre Medlock 14.
The play of the game came late in the first half. Central's Alton Williams drove to the basket and, instead of laying the ball in, he gently flipped it off the backboard. Medlock, seeing the play set up, swung into the lane, grabbed the ball and dunked it over two defenders to bring the crowd to its feet.
Armstrong, who's headed to Southeast Nebraska on a scholarship, was named Most Valuable Player of the girl's game. She had her way inside, powering for baskets and also scoring off the fastbreak.
This, she said, was the best high school game she ever put together.
"I've had none better," she said. "I came here knowing it was my last game. We had good team chemistry and everyone played well."
As for the MVP, it took Armstrong by surprise even though she was the most dominant player on the court.
"I wasn't expecting it," she said. "It was exciting and I had a lot of fun."
The 5-foot-9 Armstrong and 6-2 Linda Murray controlled the boards, which led to quick put-backs for points or layups off the break at the other end. Armstrong finished with eight rebounds and Murray six, as City outrebounded County 47-25.
"Their offensive rebounding and easy baskets ... they were just too much for us," County coach David Campbell of Sanger said. "Their game was tighter and they really pressured us. They were able to wheel and deal because they got all the boards."
City took its cue from coach Mark Gradoville of Roosevelt, whose intense sideline demeanor kept his team pressuring full-court and diving for loose balls. It was only an All-Star game, but Gradoville, arguing foul calls, stamping his feet and shouting encouragement, treated it like the final seconds of the Division III championship his Roughriders won this season.
City raced to a 10-point halftime lead, then turned it on over the final 10 minutes to widen the gap.
The teams combined for the third-highest point total in All-Star Game history, and City's 101 was second only to the 2004 City's record 109.
City's Larissa Hensley of Fresno Christian scored 10 of her 13 in the second half. Lashari Clayborne of Roosevelt added 12 points. Murray, Tara Wade of Sunnyside and Jazmyne Ortega of Bullard each finished with 10 points.
County was led by Hanford standout Lacey Gibbons' 16 points and five rebounds. Courtney Rose of Hanford had 11 of 13 after intermission, while Veronica Grines of Sanger added 11 and Shaylee Yano of Kingsburg had 10.
County's Gibbons and City's Ortega were voted most inspirational of their respective teams.
BOYS BOX SCORE
County 99, City 97
County: Cougar Williams15, Andrew Rich 5, Ryan Sharp 5, Juan Ruelas 18, Jonathon Baird 7, DJ Maciel 7, Cheyanne Alcala 10, Jared Hixson 3, Warren Moon 5, Kameron Hoyt 8, Garrett Tisdale 8, Matt Gorella 6
GIRLS BOX SCORE
City 101, County 69
City: Lashari Clayborne 12, Tara Wade 10, Kelly Carey 2, Larissa Hensley 13, Sommer Earl 5, Leslie Steele 2, Jazmyne Ortega 10, Erista Battle 3, Vanessa Gomez 6, Aujanee Armstrong 25, Linda Murray 10, Ronisha Thomas 3
Halftime: City 43, County 33