ShareThis Page

Cager Classic celebrating 20 years of A-K Valley all-stars

| Saturday, March 12, 2016, 6:42 p.m.
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Brianne Buzard (2)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Jillian Henley (10)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Mackenzie Bittner (4)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Zoe Soilis (1)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Mackenzie Kacsur (20)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Kayla Slovenec (21)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Alyssa Logan (3)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Jessica Philistine (13)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Jeana Luciana (23)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Stephanie Schrecengost (22)
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Cager Girls West Kayla Beale (12)
#0 Alex Pane
#10John Castello
#24Christian Schmitt
#2Jamison Nee
#3Aiden Albert
#42Josh Beale
#4Bobby Piskor
#12Zach Butler
#1Mason Eddinger
#20Brandon Stover
#22Jack Diehm
#11Dayon Lloyd
#13Ben Lazor
#1Lloyd Galloway
#32James Edwards
#3Brendon Urso
#45Tanner Witenski
#4Brendan Lettrich
#5Blake Steininger
#21Mike Zappala
#24RRobby Deemer
#2Deshawon Bracy
#30Brandon Heilman
#22Mandy Majocha
#23Megan Bonelli
#24Natalie Myers
#25Kathleen Camp
#2Catelyn Cujas
#33Sadie Buchser
#44Nicole Pugliese
#12Shelby Greece
#15Nicole Munion
#20Alexa Dudding
#21Courtney Toney
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Mars' John Castello scores over Allderdice's Jordan Rawls during the first quarter of their game Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, at Montour High School.
Ken Reabe Jr. | For The Tribune-Review
Apollo-Ridge guard Megan Bonelli (23) scores two of her twenty-five points with a jump shot over Frazier's Hannah Fell (30) during a WPIAL Class AA opening-round game Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at Hempfield High School in Greensburg. Apollo-Ridge won 57-42.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Plum's Rob Deemer secures a rebound against Kiski Area's Delino Franklin during the first period Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 at Plum High School.

For two decades, the Cager Classic all-star weekend has been the grand finale to the high school basketball season in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

The event turns 20 this year, and organizers not only are celebrating its longevity, but also memories of high-scoring games, highlight-reel plays and the camaraderie of years gone by.

“We've kept her going,” organizer Bill Heasley said. “The kids seem to like it. They give us accolades and say they're going to tell their friends. And it's a sellout every year.”

The event returns Saturday night at Highlands.

The A-K Valley has its cycle of events. There's racing at Lernerville Speedway, the Freeport International Baseball Invitational and the A-K Hall of Fame to name a few. These are unchanging, unrelenting events that serve a purpose and help define the local sports calendar.

The Cager Classic has a permanent spot on the list.

“I've always known about (the Cager),” said Springdale senior guard Alex Pane, who will play for the West team. “I knew there were always good players in it, and the games were always competitive.

“It means a lot to play in it, especially since my sister and my cousin played in it before.”

The Cager is about bringing rivals together, instilling the pride of family names through basketball and giving many of the better senior players from the area one last chance to play in front of local fans.

“We always get a good response,” Heasley said. “We try to emphasize fun. For many of these kids, this is their last go-around (in basketball).”

Seniors set out to cap their final seasons with a memorable weekend in Harrison.

“Playing with some of my friends that play on other teams is pretty cool, too,” Pane said. “So playing in the Cager and making memories definitely means a lot to me.”

Mars and Highlands have become rivals in Section 1, but the year-end Cager allows them to put aside their differences.

Highlands and Mars met in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals Friday.

“I'm real excited to play in it,” said Mars senior guard John Castello, another West player. “I don't really think there are any hard feelings between the two teams, though. We have great games against one another, and all want to win extremely bad.”

Freeport senior Zoe Soilis will get to play for her father one last time in high school. Fred Soilis will coach the West girls.

“I've gone to the Cager the last five years. I remember when Micah Mason played in it,” Zoe Soilis said. “So I set a goal to play in it by the time I was a senior, and it's even more special to be coached by my dad.”

Cager players often get to face opponents they not only see in WPIAL play, but also in AAU. That is the case with Soilis.

“I'm playing against my AAU teammate, Sadie Buchser (of Riverview), so that'll be fun,” she said.

The East leads the West in the all-time series 10-9 — both boys and girls.

Last year, the East boys won 110-109. The teams combined for a Cager-record 33 3-pointers, 19 from the West.

There was one fewer school for organizers to choose from this year with the merger of Ford City and Kittanning, giving them 19.

The Cager will honor one of its all-time great supporters. Terry Conroy, a long-time organizer and stat-keeper at the Cager, died last month after a battle with cancer. He was 69.

“He was one of the originals, going way back to 1997,” Heasley said. “We'll miss him dearly.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor for the Valley News Dispatch edition of the Tribune-Review. Reach him at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.