Cousins combine talents in Cager Classic
Always on opposite teams, senior forwards Jessica Aulicino and Sara Pilarski have dueled in driveways at family functions and jostled for position in the paint during Section 1-AAA games.
But they'll be playing for the same side this weekend.
Aulicino, of Freeport, and Pilarski, of Hampton, are first cousins. They will play for the West team in the 17th annual Cager Classic all-star game Saturday night at Highlands.
Tip-off for the girls game is slated for 6 p.m.
“Sara and I went to (the Cager) last year together to watch her brother (Mark) play,” said Aulicino, a 6-foot forward who averaged 15 points this season. “When we were watching the game, we were thinking, ‘Wow, that could be us next year.' ”
Freeport (8-13) moved up to Class AAA this season and knew Hampton (18-7) would be one of the top teams it would face in Section 1. Hampton beat the Yellowjackets twice.
Pilarski was a key contributor, averaging 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks.
“Both of our families are really competitive,” Pilarski said. “We go to family dinners and pool parties. We play some sport, and everyone gets involved. Of course, my side of the family always wins.”
Both teams made the playoffs. Freeport lost in the first round, while Hampton reached the WPIAL quarterfinals and suffered an opening-round loss in the PIAA playoffs.
“We used to be the same height, but in the last year, she passed me up, but not by much,” Aulicino said. “We've never played on the same organized team. I'm sure our families will take up a good part of the bleachers.”
Pilarski had her first career triple-double against Freeport. She said she often faced Aulicino in man-to-man situations.
“We had an eye out for each other,” Pilarski said.
Aulicino suffered a concussion against Hampton in the team's first meeting.
“I kind of got pushed out of bounds and hit my head,” she said. “Me and Sara matched up a couple of times.”
Both players hope to play in college. Aulicino has Division III interest. Pilarski said Indiana (Pa.), Clarion, Pitt Johnstown and Seton Hill, among others, are recruiting her.
Aulicino attended Highlands until sixth grade. A former classmate, Highlands' Nikki Misejka, also will play for the West.
Pilarski already has talked with her West coach, who happens to be her accounting teacher. Tony Howard is the coach of the Mars girls.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.