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Buchser-led East girls win Cager Classic

| Saturday, March 19, 2016, 9:33 p.m.
Steven Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Team East’s Megan Bonelli takes a shot past Team West’s Jeana Luciana during the Cager Classic at Highlands High School on Saturday, March 19, 2016.
Steven Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Team East’s Sadie Buchser drives the ball past Team West’s Brianna Buzard during the Cager Classic at Highlands High School on Saturrday, March 19, 2016.
Steven Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Team West Mackenzie Kacsur breaks through defense by Team East’s Natalie Myers and Courtney Toney during the Cager Classic at Highlands High School on Saturday, March 19, 2016.

Riverview's Sadie Buchser knows what it's like playing against top-notch talent.

This past season, her Raiders played 21 of 25 of their games against playoff teams.

So playing against tough competition came naturally to the senior as she was named East MVP in a 68-63 victory over the West in the 20th annual Cager Classic all-star event at Highlands. Buchser had 14 points, five rebounds and two key steals Saturday night.

“We definitely played the top teams, especially in the section with North (Catholic) and Vincentian,” Buchser said. “Tonight was still a little different than playing them. It's fun to play against great competition.”

The East took an 11-9 lead in the all-time series in what proved to be one of the most closely contested games. After the East took a quick 9-2 lead, neither team had more than a four-point lead until Buchser hit a free throw with 3:21 left, then made a 12-foot jumper to make it 68-61.

“It was really fun getting the opportunity to play. It was definitely different from school ball,” Buchser said. “It was really fun to be out there with them.”

Buschser is headed for Thiel in Mercer County and is hoping to play basketball and softball if they mesh well with her academic load.

Also intense was East coach Joel Ceraso, who led Leechburg to the WPIAL playoffs in only his third season at the helm.

“The girls definitely stepped up, shot well, went to the basket well and what I liked best, they shared the ball well,” Ceraso said. “We talked after specifically sharing and not trying to monopolize, but we told them if somebody hit a shot or two, let's go back to them.”

Deer Lakes senior Jessica Philistine had a memorable night to cap a memorable season. She had a game-high 17 points and six rebounds and was selected West MVP. Her Lancers teams won a preliminary-round playoff game over Greensburg Salem.

“I got to play with two girls I've been with on the team for three years, and it was a great season,” Philistine said. “It was definitely fun out there, I got to play with some old faces and new faces.”

Philistine is headed for Gannon, where she plans to study in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program.

Her Deer Lakes teammate, Mackenzie Kaczur, had 10 rebounds. Megan Bonelli of Apollo-Ridge had 15 points, and Burrell's Natalie Myers had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the East.

Freeport's Zoe Soilis, whose father, Fred, coached the West, had 12 points.

One of the happiest people to leave the gym was the Valley's Courtney Toney, who finally got to play on a winner after her Vikings went winless this season.

The game started with Plum's Mandy Majocha taking a pass for an uncontested basket. Majocha suffered an ACL injury late in the season but suited up for Saturday's game and participated in the 3-point shootout Friday.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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