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Alle-Kiski Valley high school notebook: Fox Chapel-Plum set for doubleheader

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 10:18 p.m.

It's quite a two-for-one deal for local basketball fans.

Friday night's Fox Chapel at Plum doubleheader will showcase four of the Alle-Kiski's top teams and several of its top players in a head-to-head series that rarely disappoints.

The Section 2-AAAA doubleheader begins with the girls game at 6 p.m. The boys follow at 7:30.

The games have produced large crowds in recent years, as well as vocal student sections. Fox Chapel girls coach Meagan Meabon said her team seems to “turn on a switch” when it plays Plum.

“It's always a great matchup,” Meabon said. “And it's always two exciting games. It'll be a good ticket to buy that night.”

The Fox Chapel boys are 10-2 (3-2 section) and ranked No. 4 in WPIAL Class AAAA, while Plum is a quiet 10-1 (4-1) and nipping at the heels of Class AAAA's best.

In an intriguing contrast, the game will feature the Foxes' guard-oriented up-tempo style against the slow-down, half-court look of Plum.

The teams appear to match up well. A-K leading scorer Matt D'Amico (23 ppg) and teammates Brian Papich (15.8) and Billy Urso (12.9) lead Fox Chapel, while Plum has Austin Dedert (17.7), James Edwards (14.7) and Nick Stotler (12.9).

At 6-foot-6, Dedert will be the tallest player on the floor and could be the X-factor.

“It's a great rivalry and (Fox Chapel) is one of my favorite teams to play,” Dedert said. “It's exciting to see everyone in the school get involved, and the big crowds speak for themselves. It's good basketball.”

The Fox Chapel girls (9-3, 5-0) are No. 5 in Class AAAA. Plum (8-2, 4-0) was No. 5 in the preseason rankings but fell off after an 0-2 start. Of course, the Mustangs haven't lost since, winning eight straight.

Fox Chapel 6-3 center Erin Mathias (15 ppg, 10 rpg), who has three triple-doubles this season including a game where she blocked 14 shots, rarely faces a team with this much size. Plum has 6-4 Courtney Zezza and 6-1 Aly Weifenbaugh in the post, and 5-11 standout Krista Pietropola leads the backcourt.

Zezza and Pietropola each average better than 15 points a game.

It's also rare for Alle-Kiski fans to see a matchup between two girls Division I recruits. Mathias has signed with Duke, Pietropola with Youngstown State.

Last season, the boys teams split, with Fox Chapel winning the first game on the road, 55-48. Plum returned the favor with a 54-51 win in O'Hara. The Fox Chapel girls, meantime, won both meetings 50-38 and 58-49.

Reversing course

A pair of losing streaks recently fell for girls teams at Leechburg and Knoch.

Leechburg downed Wilkinsburg, 44-17, to snap a 32-game streak that dated two seasons. Leechburg's previous win came against West Shamokin, 55-48, on Jan. 23, 2012.

Leechburg first-year coach Joel Ceraso said his team is taking the win with “tempered enthusiasm.”

“These kids are smart. They realize we have a long way to go, but they were able to see a positive result from their hard work, attitude and effort,” Ceraso said. “I was happy for them because they continue those attributes through defeat as well as victory.”

Knoch, meantime, held off Highlands, 38-31, to banish a 13-game skid. It was the Lady Knights' first on-court win since Jan. 28, 2013, 58-39 over Highlands. Knoch was given a forfeit win against Valley late last season.

Kiski Area now has the longest skid in the area at 12 in a row.

Making waves

The Burrell and Apollo-Ridge girls will play their anticipated makeup Friday night in Apollo. In addition to seeking a Section 1-AA win, there also will be bragging rights at stake for the coaches, who are friends and spend time together in the offseason.

Burrell assistant coach Mark Ziemianski, the father of head coach Meghan Ziemianski, and Apollo-Ridge first-year coach Jim Callipare, both like to sail boats on the Allegheny River.

“Or we just hang out together at the marina,” Callipare said.

“So there will be some extra trash talking one way or the other this summer in addition to heated section games.”

Apollo-Ridge (9-1, 2-1) hopes to stay afloat against the highly touted Buccaneers (10-0, 2-0).

“They are the defending section champions and more experienced team with deep runs in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs last year,” Callipare said. “In addition, Burrell beat Apollo-Ridge by 40 and 47 points last year so I think we have a lot to prove and we will be ready.”

Pulling rank

The Knoch boys are the latest local team to step into the Trib rankings. The Knights (9-1) began the week at No. 5 in Class AAA.

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