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Guido: WPIAL tweaks basketball schedules

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

Ordinarily, with 2013 being an odd-numbered year, the WPIAL doesn't have to worry about section alignments since this is the second of a two-year cycle.

Instead, the league had to tweak two Class AA basketball sections resulting from the closure of Elderton High School a year ago this week.

When Elderton was shuttered, the WPIAL schedules and section alignments already were published. Schools had to scramble to fill open dates.

Burrell, for instance, didn't play its first Section 1-AA boys game until the third night of section play Dec. 21 due to an open date and an odd number of section teams because of Elderton's absence.

Now, the WPIAL has redesigned the Section 1-AA boys and girls schedule to accommodate a six-team grouping.

Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ford City, Summit Academy and West Shamokin will tip-off boys action Dec. 21 and each school will play a 10-game section schedule concluding Jan. 31.

In girls play, Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ford City, Leechburg and West Shamokin will start section action Dec. 20 and play a 10-game section slate ending Jan. 30.

If you think that's early to finish section play, you're right. Section 1-AA games will end before the Super Bowl is played.

Section 1-AA teams, however, can schedule nonsection games until Feb. 10.

Johnsonburg joy

With the high school sports year wrapped up, it's a good time to give a shout-out to tiny Johnsonburg High School, a District 9 school in Elk County.

In the past few months, Johnsonburg made the PIAA Class A basketball finals in Hershey after an exhilarating run that included a huge upset over Lincoln Park.

Johnsonburg's tallest player was 6-foot-1, and Lincoln Park featured three starters 6-5 or taller.

In baseball, Johnsonburg won the state Class A title over Canton, 5-0, at University Park. That came after victories over WPIAL champion Western Beaver, Bishop McCort and California en route to Medlar Park.

What made these runs remarkable is Johnsonburg's size. The town is about the size of Leechburg with 2,312 residents. The high school has 113 boys and 78 girls in the top three grades.

It's small town America at its best.

Motorists know when they arrive in Johnsonburg β€” there's the unmistakable odor of the paper plant, the community's largest employer for over a century.

I had relatives in Johnsonburg for years and vacationed there as a child.

I can recall sitting on my Uncle Tony Butera's front porch and commenting on the smell from the paper plant. He would say, β€œhe stink-a, that-a mean we work,” in the manner which proud immigrants assigned gender to places and things in broken English.

The paper plant is still there. Among other things, it manufactures the special coated paper used in the Harry Potter series.

With four different ownerships in the past 22 years, the plant is little more than a corporate plaything.

A notable absence on the sports menu for Johnsonburg is football. The school is too small for the gridiron and it, instead, co-ops with nearby Ridgway High School.

Some feel Johnsonburg's days are numbered as the cost of running a small district raises the possibility of being absorbed by Ridgway or St Marys.

Whatever happens in the future, nothing will take away the memories of the 2012-13 sports year.

George Guido is a freelance writer. His scholastic column appears Wednesdays.

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