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Former Cager Classic stars went on to hoops success

| Saturday, March 16, 2002

Two years ago, Carlo Dorazio of Plum was pulling on a Cager Classic uniform in preparation for one of the biggest basketball games of his high school career.

Friday morning, Dorazio donned a Pittsburgh Panthers uniform in preparation for one of the biggest weekends of his college career.

Dorazio was the player cheering at the end of the Pitt bench during the Panthers' 71-54 win over Central Connecticut State.

The Panthers, who entered the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years, will face California in the second round of the tournament Sunday.

Dorazio, who transferred to the University of Pittsburgh last year after playing at Washington & Jefferson, made Pitt's roster as a walk-on.

Although he has not seen much playing time this season, Dorazio is enjoying the ride.

"In college basketball, everything is taken to a higher level," Dorazio said. "It's definitely an experience I'm happy to be going through."

Dorazio, a former Cager Classic Most Valuable Player, has seen plenty of support from family and friends throughout the season. He was thrilled when he realized Pitt would play close to home.

"Mellon Arena should be pretty wild," he said.

For Dorazio, playing at Mellon Arena is not much different from when he played in the Cager Classic, as far as Valley support goes.

"Local basketball fans have the opportunity to see different players from the area compete (in the Cager)," Dorazio said. "It was definitely a privilege to play in because the kids get recognized."

Dorazio would like to attend the Cager Classic tonight, but obviously, he has other plans.

It is not every day that a local player gets to participate in the NCAA tourney.

While Dorazio is basking in the success of his team, many other former Cager Classic all-stars are shining at other colleges.

Although it would be impossible to highlight all the Cager Classic all-stars from the past five years, here is a look at what a few are up to:

  • Michelle Sodini, a 1999 Cager MVP from Fox Chapel, is continuing her basketball career just down the road from Dorazio, at Carnegie Mellon University. A three-year starter for the Lady Tartans, Sodini was named to the first team of the All University Athletic Association this season, and also led the team with 75 assists, 62 steals and 322 points.

    She was also nominated as a Verizon Academic All-American, with a 3.66 grade-point average in business administration.

    "It was nice to win the last game ever in high school, Sodini said. "The Cager was a nice way to end my high school basketball career. I had a great time playing in it."

  • Matt Beacom, a 1999 Cager participant from St. Joseph, is now a junior at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Beacom currently is ranked sixth in career points (1,445), third in career rebounds (703) and fourth in career field goals (576) for Pitt-Bradford. He also made 262 field goals this season, which is the second highest single-season total in school history.

  • Justin Bouch, a 2001 Cager player from Highlands, is now playing football for Edinboro University. Bouch is a quarterback for the Fighting Scots.

    "I really enjoy playing a sport in college," Bouch said. "It is very time-demanding, but it's worth it.

    "I think the Cager helped me make some friends that had been my enemies all season long. I think it's very good for the community because it makes fans cheer for players that they were booing at all year long."

  • Cassandra Cutts, who played in the 1999 Cager, will have the opportunity to see her brother, Curtis, compete in the 2002 Cager.

    Cutts, along with 1998 Cager player and Ford City teammate Kelly Morda, are captains for the St. Vincent College women's team.

    Next season, Cutts will be joined by 2002 Cager participants, Jaime and Jodie Vick of Kiski Area.

  • Jessica Kankoski (Fox Chapel) and Kristin Kramarik (Highlands), both 2000 Cager players, are continuing their basketball careers at Allegheny College.

    Both have seen an extensive amount of playing time this season, and Kankoski, a Cager MVP, averaged 17.5 points per game this season, while Kramarik averaged 4.2.

  • Corey Utz (Mars) and Justin Robinson (St. Joseph) are 2000 Cager players who are playing at Westminster College. Robinson, also a former Cager MVP, took this season off for personal reasons. Utz, whose brother Brian will play in this year's Cager, looks forward to watching his brother play.

    "I'm very excited that Brian will get the opportunity to play in the Classic," Utz said. "It was high class and I had a good time hanging out with a lot of the guys I had been playing against."

  • Sean O'Donnell, a 2000 Cager player, is currently pitching for the Grove City College baseball team. Last season, he finished with a 1-0 record, with an ERA of 4.19. His brother Joe will compete in the this year's Cager.

  • Justin Miller, a 1998 Cager participant from Highlands, is using his basketball talent to help coach middle school students at Highlands.

    Miller, who is the son of Cager Classic founder Gary Miller, holds the record for assists (9) in the Cager Classic. He is now assisting the Highlands basketball program.

  • Alan Bauman, a 1999 Cager player from Freeport, is an assistant coach at Geneva College. His brother Adam will play in tonight's Cager.

    Contest winners:

    HARRISON: Results Friday from the Sixth Annual Cager Classic all-star individual competitions:

    Boys 3-point contest

  • Winner: Billy Pish, Burrell (East)
  • Runner-up: Brad Witucki, Highlands (West)

    Girls 3-point contest

  • Winner: Kristen Medica, Hampton (West)
  • Runner-up: Jodie Vick, Kiski Area (East)
  • Runner-up: Theresa Hrnciar (West)

    Girls Hot Shot contest

  • Winner: Andrew Perlmutter, Shady Side Academy (West)
  • Runner-up: Ben Davis, Cheswick Christian Academy (East)

    Two-ball team contest

  • Winner: Allyson Shogan, Shady Side Academy/Matt Brunck, Fox Chapel (West)
  • Runner-up: Corey Smith, Kiski Area/Stephanie Rizzo, Kittanning (East)


    Boys West Squad: Larry Rommes, Deer Lakes; Matt Brunck, Fox Chapel; Adam Bauman, Freeport; Mike Acre, Freeport; Dan Obermeier, Hampton; Brad Witucki, Highlands; Matt Bonislawski, Highlands; Matt Bazzani, Knoch; Brian Utz, Mars; Bill Zopf, Pine-Richland; Tommy Sochacki, Shady Side Academy; Joe O'Donnell, St. Joseph. Head coach: Harry Jenkins, Fox Chapel.

    Boys East Squad: Caleb Atmire, Apollo-Ridge; Billy Pish, Burrell; Tim Eckman, Burrell; Ben Davis, Cheswick Christian Academy; Curtis Cutts, Ford City; Corey Smith, Kiski Area; Tye Desiderio, Kittanning; Mike Sober, Leechburg; Cliff Tielsch, Plum; R.J. Hurt, Riverview; Dave Lochrane, Springdale; Cal Santucci, Valley. Head coach: Larry Rupert, Kiski Area.

    Girls West Squad: Becky Galie, Deer Lakes; Jill Florentine, Deer Lakes; Lindsey Weber, Fox Chapel; Sara Kinter, Freeport; Katlin Weber, Hampton; Kristen Medica, Hampton; Theresa Hrnciar, Highlands; Melissa Lazar, Knoch; Leslie Pinkerton, Mars; Jackie Richards, Pine-Richland; Allyson Shogan, Shady Side Academy; Rachel Moore, St. Joseph. Head coach: Dana Petruska, Mars.

    Girls East Squad: Andrea Tardivo, Apollo-Ridge; Katie Wheeler, Burrell; Heather Abate, Ford City; Jaime Vick, Kiski Area; Jodie Vick, Kiski Area; Stephanie Rizzo, Kittanning; Nicole Giunta, Plum; Jessica Burns, Plum; Shea Truby, Riverview; Michele Leiberton, Springdale; Kim Strickland, Valley; Marisa Smith, Valley. Head coach: John Cope, Valley.

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