St. Ignatius senior Neal Begovich throws down a jam during the slam dunk competition before the City Basketball All-Star Game on April 5, 2019, at the City College of San Francisco. Begovich is headed to Stanford in the fall. (Jeff Weisinger / Special to S.F. Examiner)

Maddie Ennis, Neal Begovich take home top honors at City Basketball All-Star Game

St. Ignatius seniors players Maddie Ennis, Neal Begovich take home top honors in City All-Star Game

CITY COLLEGE — A lot of high school all-star games are set up for the best players in its respective sport’s league to showcase for coaches and schools at the next level. It’s usually a last chance for a player to get noticed and add an extra notch on their playing resume.

San Francisco’s City Basketball All-Star Game is a different scene, one that not only showcases the best players in the City, but also celebrates the game and the community it has built throughout the years. Friday night was no exception.

“It’s a really special way for the kids to end their year,” said Jon Shogan, the Chief Operations Officer of Bay City Basketball and the head coach of Jewish Community High School’s boys’ varsity basketball team. “It’s special with a great group of seniors here for sure.”

Shogan coached the white team for the boys’ game of the 12th annual City Basketball All-Star Game at the City College of San Francisco on Friday night, an event hat showcased the top senior players from the city’s high schools, from across the Academic Athletic Association, the Bay Counties League and the West Catholic Athletic League. Both the girls and boys stars held a skills event before the games themselves itself took place.

Prior to the girls’ game, KD Lee of Lowell won the three-point competition and before the boys’ game, Neil Begovich of St. Ignatius won the slam dunk competition. In the girls’ game, the white team defeated the red team 73-62, and in the boys’ game, the white team won 132-122.

The defensive play on the night was as unimportant as the scores and stats. The players wore basic white and red shirts with the “City All-Stars” logo screen in front with no numbers on the back. Instead, the focus of the night was to spotlight the San Francisco high school basketball community and to use the game as a celebration of the seniors’ playing careers and the season that was.

“Talent is coming in from all over the Bay Area, which is good to help the community get together and to hoop,” Lee said after the girls’ game. “That’s really what it’s about when it’s all said and done. All of our talents and hard work throughout the year isn’t going unnoticed.”

This game goes much deeper than just the seniors on the court and the high school hoops community. A lot, if not all, of the players grew up playing together.

“It’s really a great opportunity to bring kids together from the AAA, from the WCL and the BSL,” said University High head coach Randy Bessolo, who also helped organize the event and took his team all the way to the state finals. “A lot of them grew up playing with and against each other in CYO and AAU, so it’s a real celebration to bring it together one last time to play in a game that’s fun and just a great way to cap their high school careers.”

Lincoln High School head coach Carl Jacobs, who coached the red team in the boys’ game, echoed Bessolo’s thoughts on the night.

“I love stuff like this for the guys that come together,” he said. “All of these seniors, they know each other from the city and you can see how the camaraderie is between them. I like when the City can showcase themselves.”

Despite it being a game where the final score didn’t truly matter, nor did the stats in the end, St. Ignatius still found a way to take the spotlight and take home some small hardware. St. Ignatius’ Begovich — an All-City second-team selection — and Maddie Ennis, the Examiner’s Girls’ Player of the Year, each took home the game MVP awards for the boys’ and girls’ games, respectively. Begovich is on his way to Stanford while Ennis is heading to the University of the Pacific.

“It’s very humbling,” Begovich said about playing in the event while winning both the slam dunk contest and the boys’ game MVP award. “It’s awesome to play with all these guys from around the city that I’ve played with since middle school.

“San Francisco basketball is awesome in terms of the AAU programs and the high schools around here. Everyone knows everyone around here and they’re really involved, not just in the high school season, but also in the AAU season, so we’ve all just been playing with each other since middle school.”

Ennis, who comes from a lineage of basketball players in her family, knows how special this game is.

“It’s really special,” she explained. “My dad played in this game, he played at S.I., so I was always looking to play in it. This game is important to me, it’s always been a dream to play in it, so I’m just thankful I got to play in it.”

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