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Papich makes most of Cager Classic event

| Sunday, March 23, 2014, 12:12 a.m.
Steve Dietz | For The Valley News Dispatch
West Team's David Gallagher drives the ball to the hoop past East Team's Matt D'Amico during the Cager Classic at Highlands High School on Saturday, March 22, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
East Team's Brian Papich drives the ball to the hoop against West Team's Austin Miller during the Cager Classic at Highlands High School on Saturday, March 22, 2014.

Cager Classic weekend was a productive one for Fox Chapel's Brian Papich.

The 6-foot-2 senior was part of a winning duet in the co-ed hot shot competition Friday night, scored the third highest individual point total in the history of the event with 27 and was named East team MVP as the West came from behind in the second half to defeat the East, 112-109, in a record-setting all-star game Saturday at Highlands.

“It's definitely unique,” Papich said of his weekend. “First of all, I was playing with the guys from Plum who I've been rivals with since I was little. It's great to get to know a lot of new guys, and there was a lot of good talent here.”

Papich, who has yet to decide on a college to attend in the fall, also added five rebounds, three steals and three assists.

The West team set a Cager Classic record with 75 points in the second half after trailing 50-37 at the half. The old record was 66 points in a half set by the East in 2010.

The combined 221 points also were a record for the 18 Cager Classics, breaking the mark set in the 2011 event.

The all-time series in the boys event is tied at 9-9.

West Shamokin's Zane Clowser was the West MVP with 24 points. The 5-11 senior also had four rebounds and four assists.

“This was fun,” Clowser said. “You play against these guys all your life. You learn how to play against them — and maybe not like them — then you get to know them, and they're great guys.”

Clowser plans to attend Pitt-Johnstown in the fall and study electrical engineering.

Leading the West comeback was Knoch's Austin Miller and Owen Nearhoof with four 3-pointers each in the wild second half.

Ron McNabb served as the West coach, and he had no strategy for an all-star game comeback.

“We just got hot at the right time,” McNabb said. “Our guys couldn't hit at first, then they started making their shots and changed the complexion of the game.”

For McNabb, it also was important to coach three players who helped lead the Knights to a section title this season: Miller, David Gallagher and Chris Kier.

“It was nice to coach those guys one more time. It's priceless,” McNabb said. “Those guys mean so much to me as players, and I've grown very attached to them off the court. I'm going to miss those guys dearly, but it was nice to end their high school careers with a win.”

Miller had 22 points, Gallagher 10 and Kier six.

Also, McNabb's father, Ron Sr., was one of the game officials.

The elder McNabb performed well at age 80, completing his 44th season in stripes. He even threatened his son with a technical foul after the coach questioned a couple of first-half calls.

Also turning in an outstanding performance was Plum's Austin Dedert, who had 23 points and led the East with 12 rebounds.

Matt Matisko of Springdale led the West with 10 rebounds.

Matt D'Amico, Fox Chapel's all-time leading scorer, had 13 points. His 3-point try that would have tied the score missed as time ran out.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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