Guido: Stage is set for lost basketball tradition
One by one, the iconic, old-fashioned high school basketball floors are disappearing into history.
Nearly gone are the little bandbox-style facilities that proved to be true home-court advantages.
Next on the list of historic floors going by the wayside will be the North Catholic auditorium stage/basketball court.
The school, rechristened Cardinal Wuerhl North Catholic, will be moving to a new building in Cranberry.
The Trojans will leave behind a basketball floor lined on an auditorium stage that has been the bane of many Alle-Kiski boys and girls hoop teams.
St. Joseph is scheduled to be the last local team to play on the North Catholic floor Jan. 9.
The last home games at North Catholic will be Feb. 6, when the girls battle rival Vincentian, and one day later when the boys close out their section season against Sewickley Academy.
On Dec. 9, the Burrell girls manhandled North Catholic, 65-39.
That was one of the few times, to be sure, that a local team won on the stage by such a huge margin.
The parade of difficulties for local teams on the North Catholic stage began in the 1975-76 season when Valley, then No. 2-ranked in the state, fell to the Trojans, 37-31. The only other losses that season for the Vikings came against Farrell in the WPIAL title game and to Fifth Avenue in the PIAA playoffs.
When Highlands won the WPIAL Class AAA boys title in 1995, the Golden Rams lost three times to North Catholic.
The toughest of the defeats came at North Catholic. The Trojans won a 73-64 decision on the Troy Hill hardwood.
The only other school outside the area that used an auditorium stage as its home floor was Saltsburg, a member of the local Class A section into the 1980s before the school, also nicknamed the Trojans, left the WPIAL.
A new high school since has replaced the old Saltsburg building.
The next historic home floor to meet its demise will be the tiny Freeport Junior High court. The school is set to close at the end of the 2014-15 school year. The court recently has been used for gym classes and for football teams to use at halftime of games at nearby James Swartz Memorial Stadium.
Until 1961, it served as Freeport's home high school court.
School district and borough officials are looking to use the property for another purpose.
Whether the junior high is turned into an apartment complex, a business incubator or another purpose, the basketball court will likely be done away with.
One small gym that's still standing is at Vincentian Academy. The Royals play in a 400-seat facility where the shoes of fans in the front row touch the sideline.
And don't forget Wilkinsburg, where the school still uses its third-story gym where a balcony extended toward the floor. The court is so small that the time line for each side is about a third of the way up the floor.
Ford City's Red Mihalik gym, built as a Works Progress Administration project in 1938, and Kittanning's Lt. Charles Hutchinson Gym are scheduled for their final seasons next year.
The Armstrong School District has yet to decide the fate of either facility.
Knoch hockey alumni
The annual Knoch alumni hockey game is set for Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Trib Total Media Pittsburgh Ice Arena in New Kensington.
The game is in honor of former Knoch player Jamie McCandless.
Alumni are asked to arrive at the arena between 5:45 to 6 p.m. The event is open to any former Knoch hockey player.
Former board members and coaches are also welcome to attend.
For more information, call Jeri Brubach at 724-352-7620.
George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.