The first Columbia vs. South Carolina All-star game put the talents of 24 basketball players from 21 programs on display at Benedict College on Saturday.
The result was a lot of flash and dash, and a 162-139 win for the South Carolina squad, led by Sindarius Thornwell.
It started as a low-key competition, a pick-up game among teammates. Then it turned into a show. Thornwell’s rebounding, Matt Howard’s dunks, and Justin Dotson’s tricky passing electrified the game.
It was exactly what Lexington’s Nygel Gates was expecting.
“I pretty much knew it was going to be a lot of up and back, a lot of dunks, a lot of highlight plays,” said Gates, who put up 20 points. “I knew it was going to be a lot of fun.”
The game also featured man-to-man matchups between future Gamecocks teammates Thornwell and Justin McKie of Irmo.
Aaron Scott, who represented Richland Northeast, was honored to be among this All-star group.
“It’s was great. You hear a lot about all of these guys, and you never really get to see everybody, but when you get them all on the floor together and a lot of exciting things can happen,” said Scott, who will play at Appalachian State.
Thornwell, a Lancaster native who played his high school career at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, said he enjoyed getting a feel for his new teammate.
“I was great. I didn’t get to see most of these guys through my high school career so it was great to really be able to get out here and see the kind of talent that we have in my home state,” Thornwell said.
What the game did not have much of was intense defense or dominant post play.
In an offensive shootout, three-point shooting from Hartsville’s Jaylen Shaw helped the South Carolina team pull way ahead late in the first half. The Columbia squad trailed 82-67 going into the second half and never drew closer.
“They got the best of us in this (game), but we’ve still got a lot of talent, a lot of great players,” Gates said.
“All of these guys have great talent, and everyone out here deserved to be out here. It was a great game,” Thornwell said.