By TODD MILLES
Selah High School’s Elijah Pepper insists he hasn’t always been a dead-eye perimeter shooter.
In fact, he said early on in basketball, he had horrible form.
“It was not very good,” Pepper said. “But ever since seventh grade, I usually get 500 shots up at 5 a.m. And I continue to work on it.”
Pepper, a UC Davis signee, tallied a team-high 30 points, leading the 2A team to a 110-98 victory over the 1A squad at the WIBCA all-star game Saturday at Curtis High School in University Place.
The 2A seniors needed every bit of his contributions to offset Lynden Christian star Cole Bajema’s game-high 35 points for the 1A team, including eight 3-pointers.
But it was Pepper who stood out on both ends, displaying a non-stop work rate.
“What I like about Elijah … is he has such an amazing anticipation for the game,” said 2A all-star coach Brian Roper, who guided Lynden to a second consecutive state championship earlier this month. “He sees things before the other nine guys do – to get loose balls, deflections and steals.”
Pepper sank all three of his 3-pointers in 90 seconds early in the second half to give the 2A squad a 62-46 lead.
Slowly, the 1A team behind Bajema chipped away at the large deficit. Zillah’s Antonio Salinas cut it to 98-92 on his driving basket in the lane with 2:45 to go.
But Ellensburg’s Steele Venters answered with a 3-pointer. And on the other end, Peppers picked Bajema’s pocket near midcourt for a steal, feeding Clayton Whitman for an easy layup – and 103-92 lead for the 2A all stars with 2:23 remaining.
Pepper said it was the first time he had played in a high school game in Western Washington since his ninth grade season against Tumwater.
“It was kind of nice to get my name out there and show what I am about,” Pepper said. “But at the same time, it was just fun to play and be over here.”
This won’t be Bajema’s final high school game before he heads off to the University of Michigan. He will be on the Washington team for the 25th Northwest Shootout on April 13 at Liberty High School in Portland.
“It doesn’t get much better than that, playing with a lot of these guys,” Bajema said.
2A ALL STARS 110, 1A ALL STARS 98
1A: 37 61 – 98
2A: 48 62 – 110
1A: Hunter Reeves 11, Avery Seter 4, Cole Bajema 35, Brock Ellis 10, Trey Rudolph 4, Ken West 9, Nate Kleppe 2, Antonio Salinas 17, Gage Wilson 6.
2A: Torrey Cady 2, Nick Brynan 11, Elijah Pepper 30, Jacob Wells 11, Evan Dirksen 8, Jake Elfstrom 9, Micah Pollard 11, Clayton Whitman 9, Steele Venters 17, Christian Zamora 2.