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High school notebook: McNabbs enjoy 'priceless' moments at Cager Classic

| Monday, March 24, 2014, 10:51 p.m.
Steven Dietz | For The Valley News Dispatch
Knoch High School boys basketball coach Ron McNabb talks with his father, Ron McNabb Sr., who was a referee at the Cager Classic basketball game at Highlands High School on Saturday, March 22, 2014.
Steven Dietz | For The Valley News Dispatch
Knoch boys basketball coach Ron McNabb talks with his father, Ron McNabb Sr., and Knoch senior Austin Miller prior to the Cager Classic on Saturday, March 22, 2014, at Highlands.

Ron McNabb enjoyed the brevity of an otherwise good-natured exchange with his father, an 80-year-old referee.

Most people in attendance didn't see the subtle-yet-innocent jawing back and forth between father and son Saturday night at Highlands.

But it happened on a basketball court, so it was doubly special for the Knoch coach, who spent his evening leading the West all-stars in the 18th annual Cager Classic.

Ron Sr., in his 44th season in stripes, said before the game how proud he was that his son was going into the Alle-Kiski Sports Hall of Fame.

“He better not give me any lip,” the elder McNabb said.

But he did. Lots of it.

In one lighthearted exchange, the coach begged for a foul call. His father told him to keep his mouth shut or he'd get “T'd up and thrown outta here.”

The younger McNabb muttered something under his breath, to which an assistant said, “you better be careful — he's watching you.” The coach responded with, “It's OK, he can't hear anyways.”

“I was on him all night,” Coach McNabb said. “I told him every time I come to Highlands we get absolutely no calls, and now he was a part of it. And I told him the Cager was scraping the bottom of the barrel with this officiating crew.”

Later, with the West up a few points in what turned out to be a record-setting, 112-109 victory, the ref mouthed to his son, “Hold the ball, you (idiot).”

It was priceless to those who heard the banter, including family members whose attention was lured away from the dunks and 3-pointers and placed solely on an all-star relationship.

Cager leftovers

Not only did the boys Cager Classic produce record-breaking numbers Saturday night, but it also kept its family-connection storyline going strong.

It's not uncommon for siblings to come through the Cager, but it's rare for them to share top honors. St. Joseph's Mallory Heinle was named West MVP, an honor bestowed to her older brother, Brian, in 2011.

Fox Chapel's Brian Papich was East MVP, four years after his sister, Jenny, took the same award — albeit for the West team.

The West boys broke the Cager record for points in one half (75), and the boys teams combined for the most points in the event's 18-year history (221). The West's 19 3-pointers also are a record for the all-star game.

Papich's award gives Fox Chapel 12 MVPs, the most by one school. That includes seven to Fox Chapel girls. Plum is next with seven total thanks to Krista Pietropola's MVP performance Saturday.

The East and West are tied 9-9 in the all-time series for both boys and girls.


Local basketball teams faced the best in the playoffs.

The WPIAL brought home five PIAA championships from Hershey, and three of those teams eliminated Alle-Kiski squads from the postseason.

Kiski Area's boys (17-7) lost to Class AAAA champion New Castle (31-0) in the WPIAL semifinals.

Burrell's girls (28-2) fell twice to Class AA champion Seton-La Salle (27-4), in the WPIAL finals and state semifinals, and Kittanning's girls lost to Class AAA Blackhawk (28-2) in the WPIAL first round.

Another state champ, Vincentian's girls (27-3), were responsible for two of St. Joseph's five losses during the regular season. St. Joseph was 19-5.

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

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