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Highlands era ends in Cager Classic

| Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Highlands coach and player will grace their home basketball court one last time together. And they'll do so during an all-star game.

Departing Highlands coach Meghan Ziemianski and senior guard Abby Hetrick are members of the West girls team, which will take on the East at 6 p.m. Saturday night in the 15th annual Cager Classic at Highlands.

The boys game follows at 8.

Ziemianski told Highlands officials she was resigning last week as a concession to a busy schedule, which includes a pursuit of a second masters degree.

Hetrick, a 3 1/2-year starter who led Highlands in scoring this season (14 points per game), will play one last prep-level game before college.

She has narrowed her choices to Gannon, Pitt-Johnstown and Slippery Rock.

"Abby is one of the reasons I stayed (at Highlands previously)," Ziemianski said. "We were together for four years. She was a manager on the seventh-eighth grade team; her and Brittany Cook."

With Ziemianski coaching and Hetrick handling the ball, the East will have a touch of Highlands.

"I'm really excited to play for (Ziemianski) one more time," Hetrick said. "She has been by coach since my freshman year. The seniors were so much closer with her."

Ziemianski, 28, also is an art teacher at Highlands and has a part-time job as a bartender in New Kensington.

She is working towards a masters as a reading specialist. The degree is through Edinboro, although most of it is done online.

"Last week, I wrote an 85-page term paper," Ziemianski said. "Trying to get homework done, teach and coach during the season was tough."

She doesn't expect to be away from basketball long.

"I don't know if I can take that much time off from basketball," she said.

Ziemianski also coached the seventh and eighth grade girls team at Highlands, adding to her schedule.

Hetrick said she will be missed.

"She really cared about us and always wanted what was best for us," Hetrick said. "She was more like a family member than a coach."

Ziemianski won't be alone on the bench Saturday. Her father, former Burrell coach Mark Ziemianski, will assist her, along with Ryann Barr, a former Fox Chapel player who played in the first Cager Classic.

Meghan's uncle, Chris Ziemianski, will referee the girls game.

"That's really kind of cool," Meghan said.

Hetrick has played against several of her Cager opponents. Players from Knoch, Hampton, Mars and Kittanning will play in the game.

"I think we know all about each other already," Hetrick said. "We watched each other when we scouted each other. We know how the other is going to play."

Ziemianski is looking forward to coaching against Kittanning's Janelle Kotyk again. Kotyk will lead the West team.

Kittanning and Highlands had some physical games in WPIAL Section 1-AAA play.

"Her and I don't like to lose," Ziemianski said. "(Kotyk) knows all of our plays."

Additional Information:

At a glance

Cager Classic

• Saturday, Highlands High School

• 6 p.m. girls game; 8 p.m. boys game.

Tickets: $4 students; $6 adults. Available at B&J Sports, Natrona Heights (724-226-2762).

Skills competition: 7 p.m. Friday.

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