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Fox Chapel's Mathias brings star power to Cager Classic

Andy Colwell | Erie Times-News - Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias shoots over McDowell defenders Mary Smith (left) and Ciana Kaczmarek during the third quarter of a PIAA Class AAAA first-round game at Mercyhurst University in Erie on March 7, 2014. Fox Chapel won 48-36.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andy Colwell | Erie Times-News</em></div>Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias shoots over McDowell defenders Mary Smith (left) and Ciana Kaczmarek during the third quarter of a PIAA Class AAAA first-round game at Mercyhurst University in Erie on March 7, 2014. Fox Chapel won 48-36.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias (35) is congratulated by Taylor Cohen during a break in the second half against Peters Township on Monday, Feb. 8, 2014. Mathias scored her 1,000th career point in the first half of the game.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias (35) is congratulated by Taylor Cohen during a break in the second half against Peters Township on Monday, Feb. 8, 2014.  Mathias scored her 1,000th career point in the first half of the game.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch - Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias, left, is defended by Plum's Krista Pietropola as she goes to the hoop during girls basketball action on Friday night at Plum High School, January 10, 2014
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Bill Shirley  |  For The Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias, left, is defended by Plum's Krista Pietropola as she goes to the hoop during girls basketball action on Friday night at Plum High School, January 10, 2014
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch - Plum's Krista Pietropola (right) steals the ball and starts a fast break against Gateway on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Bill Shirley  |  For The Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Plum's Krista Pietropola (right) steals the ball and starts a fast break against Gateway on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013.

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Cager Classic

• Saturday, Highlands High School (Girls game 5:45 p.m.; Boys game 7:45). Skills competition: 7 p.m. Friday.

• Admission: Games: $6 adults; $4 students; Skills: $1. Tickets available at B&J Sports, Natrona Heights, 724-226-2762.

Top high school sports
Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 11:24 p.m.
 

Plenty of talented players have appeared in the Cager Classic all-star basketball game over the years, many with impressive prep careers. But none seem to mirror that of Fox Chapel senior forward-center Erin Mathias.

The 6-foot-3 standout will play for the West team Saturday night in the girls' game set to tip at 6 p.m. at Highlands.

Never before has the Cager had a Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year or one that has a college scholarship to an ACC school. Mathias has signed with Duke.

She is the No. 9-ranked forward in the country in the Class of 2014, according to ESPN.com.

“She's a special one,” said Fox Chapel coach Meghan Meabon, who will coach the West girls.

There have been Division I players make their marks on the A-K's all-star weekend. Highlands' Micah Mason (Drake/Duquesne), Plum's Nolan Cressler (Cornell), Fox Chapel's Meagan Cowher (Princeton) and Ford City's Marisa Wolfe (Penn State) are among a recent group. But Mathias brings a uniqueness, not only because of her size but because of her numbers.

She's a big with big stats.

She averaged 16.6 points, 12.8 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game for the Foxes (20-6), who made the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals.

And she topped the 1,000-point mark in only three seasons after missing her sophomore season following minor knee surgery.

Mathias has remained noticeably humble through her achievements, and doesn't want to feel like an exhibit in a glass case at the Cager.

“I'm just looking to have fun,” she said. “It'll be nice to play a game without any weight on my shoulders.”

Cager organizers were pleased to get Mathias, who also will play in the Roundball Classic. She was nominated for the McDonald's All-American Game.

Cager committee member and game announcer Bill Heasley has seen Mathias play and said he was impressed from the start.

“She was by far was the most dominant player on the floor,” Heasley said. “She had good floor sense and demonstrated good anticipation skills. In talking with her briefly during our registration, she seemed very modest.”

Heasley thinks Mathias will garner attention at the Cager, but also will be a dependable teammate.

“After their first (WPIAL) playoff victory I happened to see their team at a local restaurant, and I could tell she was respected by her teammates and was one of the gang,” Heasley said.

With a big game, Mathias could add to Fox Chapel's MVP reign at the Cager. The school has produced 11 MVPs since the event began in 1997, including seven on the girls side.

Mathias doesn't plan to disappear in the post.

“I'm going to take some chances,” she said. “Shoot some 3s, maybe try to get a fast-break dunk. I'm excited. It should be fun to play with and against other talented players.”

Mathias will be one of two Division I players in the girls game. Plum's Krista Pietropola, who will play for the East and had several battles with Fox Chapel in Section 2-AAAA play, has signed with Youngstown State. She is Plum's all-time leading scorer.

Her East teammate is St. Joseph's Mallory Heinle, who led the A-K Valley — and Class A — in scoring this season (24 points per game). She is headed to Division II Slippery Rock.

Bill Beckner Jr is the local sports editor of the Valley News Disptach. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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