Alle-Kiski's Cager Classic a family affair
By Bill Beckner Jr.
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012,
It's all relative at the Cager Classic.
The Alle-Kiski Valley's basketball all-star weekend is a spirited tradition driven by familiar names.
From Altmire, Arch, Bauman and Conroy, to Edwards, Emberg, Klingensmith and Robinson, brothers, sisters and cousins have dotted East and West rosters from the event's inception in 1997.
Another one of the more popular names on the Cager family tree will be represented again when Highlands' Sara Witucki suits up for the West team on Saturday night during the 16th annual Cager at Highlands High School.
Witucki will be the fifth member of her family — and first girl — to play in the event, joining cousins Kirk, Brad, Clark, and Kyle, all of whom are Highlands' alumni.
"My whole family's been in it," said Sara, a 5-foot-9 forward. "I was there to see a couple of them play. Now, it's my turn and it's going to be awesome."
The family connections don't stop there.
Who could forget the Lamberts from Kittanning• Steelers Hall of Famer Jack Lambert's daughters, Liz and Lauren, both have played in the Cager but will see their younger brother, Ty play this year.
A 6-3 forward, Lambert will play for the East.
St. Joseph's Rachel Edwards, meanwhile, remembers watching her older brothers, Wade and Seth, both Highlands grads, play for the West team. Now she will get to play.
"The Cager is a great opportunity to carry on the tradition," Edwards said. "It's great to be able to follow in my family's footsteps.
"The other thing is that I played against all these girls and now I am teammates with them."
West boys coach Kelly Robinson will make his record third appearance on the Cager sideline. His nephews, Justin and Josh, and niece, Jen, have played in past Cagers.
And to keep with the family theme, his brother, Scott, is scheduled to officiate Saturday's game.
Robinson knows coaching doesn't play a major role in all-star games. But when asked what he doesn't want to do in the game, he said, "Two things: Call timeout and get a technical from my brother."
The Cager serves as a season finale for many players, including those whose teams did not make the playoffs.
"It's a great way to end your career," Fox Chapel guard Matt Roman said. "Knowing we didn't make the playoffs, it's nice you can still go out the right way.
"I'd like to prove I can go out and compete with anybody."
Fans should expect a high-scoring boys game, although last year's offensive explosion raised the bar.
The East won, 113-107, marking the first time in the event both teams scored more than 100 points.
Ten times in event history the winning boys team has scored 100 or more. The team record for points is 117 set by the East boys in 2009.
Also last year, Kittanning grad Nathan Stolitza broke the boys' individual scoring mark with 34 points.
The girls' record is held by Fox Chapel grad Meaghan Cowher, who posted 29 points in 2004.
"There's always that competitiveness to outdo the year before," St. Joseph guard Mike Connelly said. "Teams want to break the scoring record. You'll have a couple players going after the individual record. It'll be exciting."
West boys: Mike Connelly, St. Joseph; Ryan Dunn, Freeport; Jordan Fragapane, Deer Lakes; Joe Killian, Springdale; David Klodowski, Hampton; Tyler Kazmierczyk, Highlands; Tavito Lio, Knoch; Micah Mason, Highlands; Mark Pilarski, Hampton; Matt Roman, Fox Chapel.
Coach: Kelly Robinson, St. Joseph.
East boys: *Corey Bickert, Riverview; Anthony Bozzarelli, Apollo-Ridge; Tre Carter, Kiski Area; Nolan Cressler, Plum; Tarique Ellis, Plum; Ty Lambert, Kittanning; Alex Lamendola, Kiski Area; Kyle Legters, Burrell; Jake Milberger, Riverview; D.J. Oberdorf, Leechburg; Jon Shanty, Ford City; Thomas Weremeychik, Valley.
Coach: Matt Gourley, Apollo-Ridge.
West girls: Brooke Armahizer, Knoch; Emily Casello, Deer Lakes; Lauren Duffy, Hampton; Rachel Edwards, St. Joseph; Randi Francis, Mars; Erin Gilmartin, Springdale; Molly Luther, Hampton; Jessica McFadden, Freeport; Shayna Panchik, St. Joseph; Candace Scanga, Deer Lakes; Sara Witucki, Highlands.
Coach: Dan Slain, St. Joseph.
East girls: Mary Andrejko, Riverview; Heather Davis, Ford City; Regan Donatelli, Plum; Erin Kennedy, Riverview; Paula McCorkle, Leechburg; Lexie Orlowski, Apollo-Ridge; Maria Prazenica, Ford City; Kelsey Robertson Plum; Tatiana Sunseri, Fox Chapel; Ryleesha Vining, Valley; Makenzie Zidek, Kiski Area.
Coach: Desiree Syster, Apollo-Ridge.
16th annual Cager Classic all-star games
When/where: Saturday/Highlands High School.
Times: Girls game, 6 p.m.; Boys 8 p.m.
Skills competition: 7 p.m. Friday.
Tickets: $6 adults; $4 students. Advance tickets available at B&J Sports, Natrona Heights (724-226-2762).
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