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East gets early jump but can't hold on

Saturday's National Lacrosse League All-Star Game had a familiar feeling for Luke Wiles.

The Buffalo Bandits' forward had a great individual performance, but was on the losing side once again. Wiles' East team lost to the West, 20-18, before 13,446 in the First Niagara Center.

"Same thing happens -- I'm in the running for MVP, our team loses, and boom, I don't get it again," said a laughing Wiles, who played on the losing West squad in last year's game. "Just brutal. I changed teams, figured I'd get the 'W,' and we come up short again."

Wiles was the only East player to score three goals. He also was the only player to knock down a goalie during the course of a game not known for physical contact when played by All-Stars. He gave goalie Aaron Bold of Edmonton a little bump at one point in the game.

"I played with him for a lot of years, so it was nice to put him on his butt," added Wiles to more laughter from the assembled media after the game.

Wiles lost out on player of the game honors to Geoff Snider of Calgary, who had four goals and two assists for the winning West. Snider played in Denver on Friday night, and it took him a while to get going.

"If you would have listened when the players first got out there, there were lots of creaks. It probably sounded like an old house or an old barn collectively," Snider said.

As All-Star games go, this one was entertaining and competitive. Practically everyone got on the scoresheet and some pretty goals were scored, but there were few breakaways as both teams showed some hustle.

"This game had some flow, and it wasn't a blowout," West coach Chris Hall of Washington said. "The guys were a little tired. Some arrived only an hour before the game started, but there was lots of effort out there."

The game started out as if it were going to be an East romp. Wiles scored two goals in the first 3:22 of play, and John Tavares added two more in the first quarter. Tavares even impressed East coach Troy Cordingley of Toronto when he wasn't scoring.

"I thought his biggest play was when Snider won a faceoff, and he came in behind, stripped him, threw the ball up, and they scored. That's what makes him the best player in the league, the best player who ever played the game."

With less than three minutes gone in the second quarter, the East had a 9-2 lead in an apparent mismatch. But the West slowly came back. It closed the gap to 11-8 by halftime. Adam Jones of Colorado helped the West's cause with a third-quarter goal. The rookie was back on familiar territory, since he had played college lacrosse at Canisius.

"I checked for text messages at halftime, and I had a lot of my buddies making fun of me for not scoring," Jones said. "I figured I had to get the monkey off my back."

The West tied the game in the final two-tenths of a second in the third quarter, and then went ahead for the first time early in the fourth on a goal that -- of all things -- came on a video review challenge. John Grant Jr. of Colorado took a shot that went through the net and came out the other side.

"I enjoyed throwing the challenge flag," Hall said. "I wasn't going to throw it on the Tavares goal; I figured I'd get booed for the rest of my career in this building. I wasn't going to go there with that."

The West built its lead from there and was never in danger of losing in the final moments.

"You get late in the fourth quarter, and the guys know they are representing our league. They want to win," Snider said.