BANGOR, Maine — Manny Martinez has thrived when facing big challenges during his high school basketball career.
The generously listed 5-foot-7 guard from Central Aroostook of Mars Hill long will be remembered in Aroostook County for his last-second floater over 6-10 Richmond center Marc Zaharchuk to give the Panthers the 2008 Class D state championship.
A year later, Martinez closed out his high school career Saturday morning at Husson University with a team-high 18 points as the East C-D senior all-stars defeated the West 88-79 as part of the annual Maine McDonald’s All-Star Basketball Games.
And while the stakes weren’t nearly as high, Martinez capped off his senior season with a memorable moment against another giant of sorts in this year’s Mr. Basketball, 6-9 Thomas Knight of Dirigo of Dixfield.
The East had just moved out to a 25-17 lead midway through the first half when the Notre Dame-bound Knight got the ball near the basket poised to score.
But the smallest player on the court reached in to strip the ball away from the tallest player on the court, and not only did Martinez make the defensive play against the highly recruited Knight, he then drove the length of the court for a layup as part of a six-point run that extended the East lead to double digits.
“I stripped him because earlier he goaltended me and was mouthing about it, so I tried to get him back with some playful competition,” said Martinez. “He’s a pretty cool kid, and I wish him luck when he goes to Notre Dame. That’s pretty cool.”
Also helping the East build its early lead was the perimeter shooting of Bangor Christian’s Brett Bradford, who made his first two shots — both from 3-point land — as the East gained a 45-33 halftime advantage.
The West scored the first six points of the second 16-minute half to get within 45-39, and was still within 51-44 on a follow-up basket by Aaron Allen of Saint Dominic of Auburn.
But Bradford and Aaron Hutchins of Schenck of East Millinocket countered with back-to-back 3-pointers to push the East’s lead back to 57-44, and Martinez added two more 3-pointers to prevent the West from closing within single digits again.
“We jelled well,” said Martinez. “We passed the ball around, moved it around and knocked down open shots. We just had fun out there. That’s all you have to do in an all-star game.”
Hutchins finished with 15 points, while Eben Powers of Deer Isle-Stonington had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the East and James Bates of Houlton scored 10 points. Bradford contributed nine points and four steals.
Knight showed off his Division I game, hitting two 3-pointers while leading the West with game-high totals of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Cody Gilboe of Forest Hills of Jackman and Eric Modica of Traip Academy of Kittery each added 10 points.
The win gave the East a split of the two boys games, as the West A-B stars rolled to a 114-81 victory behind 22 points apiece from James Morse of Saco’s Thornton Academy and Eddie Bogdanovich of Portland.
In that contest, the West jumped out to a 10-0 lead and shot 64 percent (25 of 39) from the field in the first half to put the game away.
Morse, a guard who led Thornton Academy to its first Class A state championship two weeks ago, made his first six shots from the field, including two 3-pointers, and scored 15 first-half points in staking the West to a 62-27 lead.
“It just felt great just having the freedom to put shots up and be part of a high-scoring game that’s exciting for the fans to watch,” said Morse. “I was just trying to get into the flow of the game.”
Alex Bowe of Cape Elizabeth, Jonathan Klages of Freeport and Chris Young of Greely of Cumberland Center each added 13 points for the West, which led by as many as 46 points in the second half. Johnny Murphy of Yarmouth chipped in with 10 points.
Corey Therriault of Edward Little of Auburn led the East with 14 points, while Alex Kee of Morse of Bath scored 12 and Billy Bissell of Brewer and Russ Mortland of Presque Isle added 11 points each.