SAN DIEGO — For three years, Neville Saner watched Jud Buechler from the sidelines.
And the Poway High School basketball coach always liked what he saw. Three times, Buechler led Saner's team to the San Diego Section 3-A championship.
And so it was that Saner just couldn't miss the opportunity to see Buechler play one last time in Thursday night's San Diego County All-Star basketball game at Grossmont College.
Again, Saner liked what he saw. Saner was again on the sidelines, but this time not as a coach. He was picked out of the stands to operate the 45-second shot clock.
As is the case in most all-star games, the shot-clock operator had little to do as both teams ran freely up and down the court.
The lack of work was all the better for Saner to watch Buechler score 25 points and lead the 3-A All-Stars to a 116-97 victory over the 2-A All-Stars in his final prep performance in San Diego.
In Thursday's earlier game, Tina Williams of Mount Carmel scored 17 points to lead the 3-A girls past the 2-A girls, 74-64.
Buechler, The Times' Player of the Year, leaves on Aug. 17 to attend the University of Arizona.
The 6-foot 6-inch forward dominated much of the game--especially in the second quarter, when he scored 12 points--and had Saner talking about the good old days by halftime.
"I guess I had my share of him the last three years," Saner said. "It's somebody else's turn."
In the opening minutes, Buechler caught an elbow in the eye from El Camino's Steve Heard while fighting for a rebound. He played the rest of the game with a cut over his left eye.
"After that, I decided not to go inside with all of the banging," Buechler said.
That was bad news for the 2-A stars. Buechler, who normally plays inside and had seven dunks in February's 3-A championship game, stayed away from the basket and hit six consecutive jumpers in the second quarter to help the 3-A stars take command for good.
From that point on, the game was a showcase for the county's top senior players.
--Heard, a 6-5 forward with good leaping ability, scored three quick baskets and blocked two shots in the opening two minutes.
--La Jolla's Yancy (Lucky) Brown, a stocky guard, shot consistently from the outside, finishing with 17 points.
Brown got his nickname the minute he was born.
"My mom gave birth to me during an earthquake," Brown said. "I wasn't injured and everybody figured I was lucky right off the bat."
He wasn't lucky Thursday, just good.
--Ken Crawford, who led El Camino to this year's 2-A title, came alive in the fourth quarter to score 12 points. He finished with a team-high 18 points.
In the first half, Crawford spent much of his time trying to guard Buechler. His advice for others?
"Don't let him get the ball," Crawford said, shaking his head.
--Eric Jackson of Madison complemented Buechler's play with a fine shooting performance for the 3-A stars. Jackson had 12 points by halftime and finished with 18.
In fact, almost everybody got in on the fun. All 13 players on the 3-A squad scored and all but three of the 14 players on the 2-A team scored.
Nobody's performance, however, was more memorable than Buechler's.
And nobody appreciated it any more than Saner. After the game, Saner turned fan and approached his former star player.
"Hey, I just wanted to tell you one thing," he said. "It was a thrill just getting a chance to see you play tonight."