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Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Burrell's Jake Prefling (24) breaks through (from left) Apollo Ridge's Tre Tipton and Josh Reynolds during a game Jan. 8, 2013, at Burrell.
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'American Coyotes' Series

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.

By George Guido
Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

Three local schools have made it to the PIAA basketball tournament that begins this weekend.

The Burrell girls and boys, along with the Apollo-Ridge boys, will be vying for a trip to Hershey on March 22-23.

It would have been nice to see the Kittanning boys and the Deer Lakes girls get in — two teams that could have made some noise — but we'll never know.

Here's a look at first-round opposition:

• Burrell girls vs. Bellwood-Antis, 6 p.m. Friday at Plum High School. Bellwood-Antis is a small school located between Altoona and Tyrone in Blair County. The mostly rural school district covers 63 square miles, in contrast to Burrell, which covers 32 square miles. The Blue Devils lost to Blairsville, 71-61, in the District 6 finals.

• Burrell boys vs. Bishop McCort, 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Gateway High School. The WPIAL Class AA runner-up Bucs hope to rebound against Bishop McCort, which is located in Johnstown. The school opened in 1922 when it was called Johnstown Catholic. In 1962, the school was renamed after Bishop John J. McCort of the Johnstown Diocese, the school's founder. Probably the most famous Bishop McCort alumni is Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham.

• Apollo-Ridge boys vs. Northern Cambria, 7 p.m. Saturday at Central Cambria High School, Ebensburg. This will be the Vikings' first voyage into the PIAA playoffs since 1988. Northern Cambria was built in 1963 after combining small high schools such as Barnesboro and Spangler. The most famous athletic figure from Northern Cambria is former Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty. As an assistant with the Spartans in the late 1940s, Daugherty recruited nine players from Ken High's WPIAL championship teams. Many were part of Michigan State's 1952 national championship team.

Sons of Spartans

Two key players for the WPIAL Class A champion Vincentian boys basketball team have fathers who played for St. Joseph.

Sixth man Jamison Nee, a freshman, is the son of Brian Nee, a 1981 St. Joseph graduate.

The Royals' point guard is Ryan Wolf, son of Frank Wolf, who graduated from St. Joseph in 1971, when the school was still located in the Natrona section of Harrison Township.

The elder Nee and Wolf both played for legendary coach Joe Nee, Brian's father and Jamison's grandfather.

Vincentian defeated Clairton, 86-74, for the WPIAL Class A title on Friday at Palumbo Center. “It feels terrific,” Jamison Nee said after the medal ceremony. “I couldn't have had a better season, thanks to coach (George) Yokitis. This is a dream come true for me.”

The younger Nee said it was hard to keep up with Clairton's speed.

“From what my dad, my aunt Carol (Nee) and my grandfather have taught me, I was able to keep up with them,” he said.

Nee and the Royals begin PIAA play against North Clarion at North Hills at 7:30 p.m. Friday

Belmont Complex upgrade

Armstrong County Commissioners on Thursday are expected to approve a $1.8 million upgrade to the area's oldest hockey facility, the Belmont Complex.

The facility, which has hosted hockey since 1967, will have its locker rooms and front entrance upgraded.

Bids were opened recently for general contractors, plumbers, electricians and mechanical services.

Armstrong Planning and Development Assistant Carmen Johnson said the bids came in a “little higher” than anticipated and the project, the third phase of complex upgrades, might have to be scaled back a bit.

The ice rink will close April 6. Officials hope the work is completed by Labor Day weekend.

High school hockey teams from Kittanning, Ford City and Freeport have called the Belmont home over the years.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

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