Kittanning senior Kunst shoots lights out at Cager Classic skills event
Noah Kunst came into the Alle-Kiski Valley's basketball all-star weekend with extra motivation. It wasn't a chip on his shoulder; more like pride on his sleeve.
As the last Kittanning boys player to make the Cager Classic on the eve of the school's merger with Ford City, Kunst set out to represent the Wildcats and leave one last impression.
On Friday night, he made two.
Noah has arc.
Kunst won the boys 3-point and individual hot shot contests during the annual Cager Classic skills competition at Highlands.
“Going out with a bang,” Kunst said with a smile.
Kunst finished with 14 points in the opening 3-point round, converting just one two-point “money ball,” but he hit 7 of his final 8 shots, including all four from the last rack, to top Deer Lakes' Scott Ventura in the finals 11-9.
“I took about a month and a half off when I hurt my ankle,” said Kunst, who missed several games earlier in the season but bounced back to lead the Wildcats in scoring at 16 points a game. “I wasn't sure how I'd shoot it tonight. I got a little bit of practice in, so I hoped I was ready.”
In the hot shot contest, Kunst fought off Fox Chapel's Billy Urso, who put up 58 points in the first round. In the hot shot, players shoot from numbered spots on the court, 1 through 8, with accompanying point values.
Kunst scored 31 points in the finals to beat Urso's 20.
Highlands' Kaison Branch committed to continue his basketball career at Community College of Beaver County earlier in the day, then teamed with Hampton's Maddy Neligan to win the co-ed hot shot contest, which uses an alternate-shot format.
“Me and (Neligan) talked about switching up on the 8-point shots,” Branch said. “It worked out for us.”
Branch and Neligan got past Christina Davis of Ford City and Alex Smith of Apollo-Ridge, a pair who scored 64 points in the opening round, making five 8-point shots. Smith and Davis faded in the finals, though, with just eight points.
Mars' Ali Goetz won the girls 3-point contest. She edged Burrell's Sydney Bordonaro on a tiebreaker. Both scored 10 in the finals, but Goetz made more “money balls.”
Bordonaro, a Pepperdine recruit, scored 14 in the first round and made eight straight from the final two racks.
“It was really fun, and I had a good time,” Bordonaro said. “I could have shot better, though. We'll just have to get the ‘W' tomorrow.”
The girls individual hot shot went to Fox Chapel's Vanessa Blazer, who scored 19 in the finals to top Davis, who put up 48 to edge Bordonaro by one and reach the finals.
Davis is Ford City's last girls representative at the Cager with the upcoming merger that will form Armstrong.
Kunst, also a standout golfer, hopes to play basketball in college. He is considering Penn State Behrend.
Until then, he has a third goal to accomplish at the Cager.
“A win (Saturday) would top it all off,” he said.
Girls spotlight player introductions begin at 5:45 p.m. with the tip-off around 6. The boys game follows at around 7:45 p.m.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.