Fox Chapel's Papich finds shooting eye at Cager Classic skills competition

| Friday, March 21, 2014, 11:51 p.m.

Fox Chapel senior Brian Papich ran in a track and field meet Friday afternoon at Pine-Richland and was in a hurry to finish so he could get to the Cager Classic skills competition in the evening.

To speed things up, he had to high-jump with the girls. He ended up winning that event — along with the 100-meter dash and triple jump — but then teamed up with a girl to post another victory at the Cager event.

Papich also is known for his leaping ability on the basketball court, but it was his shooting from long-range that helped he and East teammate Ally Cujas of Ford City win the Co-ed Team Hot Shot contest at Highlands High School.

“Living the dream,” the 6-foot-2 Papich said with a smile after he and Cujas put up 62 points to cruise past the West's Kelly Clowser (West Shamokin) and David Gallagher (Knoch) in the finals. “I didn't want to miss the skills event. I knew it was going to be a fun time. Plus, my coaches are here. It doesn't make up for (an early Fox Chapel playoff loss), but it's a nice way to end my senior season.”

Papich also finished second in the boys 3-point contest, getting edged out by Mars' Owen Nearhoof, 12-11, in the finals.

Papich said he wishes the Cager Classic had a dunk contest so he and Plum rival and friend Austin Dedert could show their skills. Both dunked during the individual hot-shot contest, Papich bouncing the ball to himself for a jam and waking up an otherwise quiet crowd.

Fox Chapel 6-3 star Erin Mathias of the West team also tried a dunk in her hot-shot session but turned in a layup instead.

During the team hot-shot, where players alternate shots from circles numbered from one to seven — their corresponding values — Papich said he and Cujas whipped up a fast game plan: “She shot the odds, then I shot the evens,” he said. “Then, she took the (one-point) layups, and I took the 8-pointers. It was kind of impromptu.”

Papich actually had two chances to win since he competed with Burrell's Jessica Cercone to fill a vacant spot. That team finished with 49 points, which was higher than the West's top score.

Burrell players took teammate Kelsey Oddis out for her birthday after the skills event. Oddis turned 18 on Thursday.

But there was another reason to celebrate since Oddis won the girls 3-point contest.

“I have no idea where that came from,” said Oddis, who didn't shoot many 3s for the Bucs.

“I just know it was really nice to have my teammates here to support me. It was nice to enjoy it with them.”

Burrell's coaching staff, which will guide the East team, cheered on Oddis, and some Burrell players showed up to make some noise.

Other skill winners were Plum's Krista Pietropola (girls individual hot shot) and Hampton's Hayden Seserko (boys individual hot shot).

The 18th annual Cager Classic all-star games will be played Saturday night. Doors will close and the lights will go out for girls player introductions at 5:45 p.m.

The girls game starts at 6, and the boys game follows with introductions at 7:45 and the game at 8.

The East boys lead the all-time series 9-8, the exact lead that the girls West team has.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at

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