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High school notebook: Apollo-Ridge relies on basketball-only players

| Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 12:33 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Josh Reynolds drives to the basket past Jeannette's Duke Brown (3) and Miles Sunder (10) during their WPIAL quarterfinal game Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, at Plum. Apollo-Ridge won, 53-49. (Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch)

Apollo-Ridge has seen some recent success in football, but several potential contributors have been too busy with basketball to play two sports.

And the results are showing.

The Vikings (18-8) reached the WPIAL Class AA semifinals for the first time in 25 years and will play in the PIAA state playoffs for just the second time since 1991.

Eventual champion Beaver Falls ended the Vikings' run, but another one could begin in the coming weeks. The Vikings face Northern Cambria (21-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Central Cambria High School.

Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said one of the reasons his team has had success is because several players compete year-round.

Although standouts Tre Tipton and Alex Smith play AAU basketball, they also are key football players. But seniors Evan Davis, Josh Reynolds, Lucas Burrell and the Billingsley twins — Connor and Cody — are basketball full-timers.

A school Apollo-Ridge's size would seem to have more multisport athletes.

“We have basketball kids,” Vikings coach Matt Gourley said. “So, from a conditioning aspect, the kids come in (to the season) ready. And they know the game. From a coaching aspect, you don't have to work on a lot of fundamentals. We can get right into what we want to run.”

Apollo-Ridge's last state playoff win also came in 1988. The Vikings defeated Everett then lost to Bishop McCort in the quarterfinals.

New experience

Despite last Tuesday's lopsided semifinal outcome against eventual champion Bishop Canevin, Burrell's girls basketball team (22-3) is eyeing the PIAA Class AA playoffs.

The young team, novices at the state level, might want to hit up the gift shop.

None of the Ziemianskis — not coach Meghan nor her father nor brother Zach, both assistants — have been to the state playoffs as players or coaches.

“Dad has Big East tickets, so he has a decision to make,” Meghan said. “This is definitely something new for us.”

Burrell plays Bellwood-Antis (24-2) at 6 p.m. Friday at Plum.

Diving in

Miranda Simon became the first female diver at Fox Chapel to top the 200-point mark since 1998. She finished fourth at the WPIAL Class AAA diving championships.

The finish qualified her for the PIAA championships, scheduled for March 14-15 at Bucknell University.

Teammate Emily Eames, a sophomore, finished sixth at the WPIAL meet and also is headed to states. Eames moved to the area from Boston.

Coaching news

Apollo-Ridge hired Jim Ferguson as its softball coach. ... Plum is looking for a boys soccer coach after Mike Baleno's resignation.

Looking ahead

Monday marked the first day of spring practice for baseball, softball, track and field, boys tennis, boys volleyball and boys/girls lacrosse.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor for the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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