A-K Valley rivalries set aside for Cager Classic
No love was lost when the Fox Chapel and Plum boys basketball teams played each other in Section 2-AAAA over the past few years.
Emotions ran high and their competitive dislike for one another swelled, their pregame nerves wound tighter than a belt on its last notch.
But the tension has dissipated substantially since their most recent meeting early last month, the fact players from both teams were named to the same all-star team playing a key role.
Fox Chapel's Matt D'Amico and Brian Papich will join Plum's Austin Dedert on the East team at the 18th annual Cager Classic on Saturday night at Highlands.
Look for the East to play with more bravado than spite in the season-ending senior showcase.
D'Amico, Papich and Dedert were three of the top players in the Valley this season.
“It's interesting because we obviously aren't very fond of each other during the season but we definitely respect one another,” said Papich, who scored 17 points a game and helped Fox Chapel to a 17-6 record. “They're good guys. I think it will be weird at first but pretty cool to play with them instead of against them.”
Plum's Nick Stotler was picked to play for the West as well but likely will sit out with a stress fracture in his left ankle. He and Dedert helped Plum to an 18-4 record.
Plum and Fox Chapel both were dealt first-round playoff losses, so the players are anxious to play one more time.
This won't be the first time that Dedert and D'Amico team up. They played AAU basketball together.
“I think it will be a good time,” said the 6-foot-6 Dedert, who averaged 15 points per game. “D'Amico and I have some chemistry from playing together in the summer, and Papich is a great player.”
Chemistry as in an alley-oop in the open court?
“(The fans) will have to wait until the game,” D'Amico said. “But it'll be very entertaining. It's going to be a lot of fun.”
D'Amico led the A-K Valley in scoring at 22 points per game and broke Fox Chapel's all-time scoring record that had stood for 25 years. He has college interest from Division II and III schools, including Clarion and Glenville State.
Dedert, who also is getting looks from the same level colleges, hopes to make a mark at the Cager. Should he not get free for a dunk, he thinks D'Amico will be there to pick up the slack.
“I've been thinking about some things I can try,” Dedert said. “And I can definitely see D'Amico throwing one down.”
Kiski Area guard Joey Brungo also will play for the East. Kiski Area beat Plum in the first round of the playoffs, 50-40.
Knoch's Austin Miller also has to play nice with someone from a neighboring rival. He has had it out for Mars, and Mars for him, throughout his career. Knoch and Mars are Butler County rivals and have shared heated exchanges in several sports.
The two schools shared the Section 1-AAA title this season with Indiana.
Mars' Owen Nearhoof will join Miller, and David Gallagher and Chris Kier of Knoch, on the West side.
“It's for sure going to be weird, but with the season over, it won't be a problem,” Miller said. “I'm really excited to play with all the guys in an all-star game.”