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High School Notebook: Low numbers remain problem for Valley girls basketball program

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, 8:12 p.m.
 

Valley's girls basketball program has been battling low roster numbers for the past few years, an issue it somehow has managed to work around, even making the playoffs with only six players in 2011.

But with postponements and forfeits piling up this season, and the schedule becoming more touch-and-go, the team faces challenges it may not be able to overcome.

Valley had only four players available for the Riverview Tournament, and had to forfeit both of its games the first day of the tournament. Riverview scrambled and had its junior varsity team play Carrick's varsity Friday.

Its junior varsity team wiped out, Valley (0-5) started the season with 10 girls. It's now down to seven, although coach Jeff Cheatham said up to four of the players appear to be on the fence in terms of commitment.

“We have a tough situation here, but we're staying positive,” Cheatham said. “We have girls who want to be on the team, but don't want to play in games. It's something I have never seen before.”

Other local teams have small numbers, too. But Valley's situation clearly is the most worrisome.

Burrell doesn't have a junior varsity team, either. But a consistent and talented seven-player roster has kept the varsity competitive.

“A lot of girls these days just aren't interested,” Cheatham said. “They have so many other things to do. I was always taught once you join something, start something, you finish it.”

Cheatham doesn't think the season is in jeopardy but plans to march ahead.

One positive is the return of a junior high program, which was absent last season. Still, participation is inconsistent, spotty at best.

And Cheatham said the youth program needs improvement.

“I thought we could have a really good team,” Cheatham said. “If we had the troops, we could pull it all together. We still have a season ahead of us.

“We need the support of parents and a community backing. I can tell you one thing: I am there every day. I am not going to quit on these girls.”

Deer Lakes football coach

It could be a month or more before Deer Lakes has a new head football coach in place. The district is just beginning the process to replace Todd Hazlett, whose position was opened in November.

Athletic director Chuck Bellisario said the school has received “a nice number” of applicants and will begin interviewing candidates.

Gardlock out

Valley's boys basketball team has played two-plus games without starter Tyler Gardlock, the team's second-leading scorer. Gardlock took an elbow to the head, blacked out and suffered a concussion early against Plum and did not return to that game. He also missed both games of the Riverview Tournament.

Gardlock will see a doctor again this week. Valley (2-6) has not started the same five players once this season.

Wrestling to watch

A wrestling showdown between two of the top teams in WPIAL Class AAA will take place Wednesday night in Allegheny Township. Kiski Area (8-0), ranked No. 3, will host No. 2 Franklin Regional (6-0) in a Section 1-AAA(A) match.

Franklin Regional has three No. 1-ranked individuals in Michael Kemerer (126), Josh Maruca (138) and Josh Shields (145). Kiski Area has two No. 1s in Matt McCutcheon (195) and Shane Kuhn (285).

Being Frank

Fox Chapel wrestling coach Ron Frank is nearing a milestone of sorts. He needs two wins for 350.

Frank, who has been the coach for 31 years, has a career record of 348-253-7.

Layups

A performance worth mentioning again: Leechburg basketball guard Ben Richie was brilliant in the consolation game of the Leechburg Tournament. He came off the bench to score 33 points, including eight 3-pointers. He scored 30 across the first three quarters, and 14 in the third. ... St. Joseph's boys basketball team did not make it to the championship game of its holiday tournament. The last time that happened? 1997.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for TribTotal Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or beckner@tribweb.com.

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