Cager Classic offers chance to see A-K Valley's best basketball players
All-star basketball games are meant to be showcases, where fans can check out some of the players they only have heard about during the season.
It's an up-close glimpse at a much-talked-about scorer from another classification. Or, a peek at a big-time recruit from across town.
The Cager Classic is no different.
For two decades, the event has served up some of the top basketball talent in the Alle-Kiski Valley. Some of the area's greats have made their mark at the annual star-studded weekend at Highlands.
This year, the two standouts to watch are Plum's James Edwards and Burrell's Natalie Myers.
Edwards, one of the top guards in Class AAAA, is headed to Air Force. He said he chose the Cager over other all-star games because of relationships with former opponents and teammates.
“I wanted to relive some moments from kids I grew up with,” said Edwards, a 1,000-point scorer. “I know the Hampton kids and played against some guys from Highlands and Fox Chapel. I went last year to watch my teammates Mike (McGuire) and Will (Fuhrer). It looked fun. I look forward to enjoying the moment.”
Myers is a Youngstown State recruit.
Some of the top Division I players to come through the Cager in recent years include Highlands' Micah Mason (Duquesne), Plum's Nolan Cressler (Vanderbilt), Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias (Duke), Burrell's Sydney Bordonaro (Pepperdine), Fox Chapel's Meagan Cowher (Princeton) and Ford City's Marissa Wolfe (Penn State).
Cressler still holds the Cager single-game scoring record with 38 points. Cowher has the girls' mark with 29.
Myers' sister, Taylor, played in the Cager.
“I have known a lot of people who played in (the Cager) in the past,” Myers said. “It's an honor to be selected to play. It's exciting to be a part of it.”
Myers has to be considered one of the top forwards to play in the Cager. The 5-foot-11 producer of double-doubles helped lead Burrell deep into the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs in all four of her years.
She has scored more than 1,400 career points, second all-time at Burrell to Bordonaro.
“I don't really think of it like that,” Myers said of her place in Cager history. “I just know the Cager is a fun event that a lot of people go to.”
Mars also features a Division I recruit in Christian Schmitt, who has committed to Furman. He is scheduled to play for the West team.
Edwards will join another local backcourt standout for the East team. Kiski Area's DeShawon Bracy was one of the top scorers in the Valley this season. Edwards' teammate, Rob Deemer, is a post player to watch, as is Armstrong 6-7 forward Brandon Heilman, who had an injury-plagued season.
The West boys feature Highlands' Jamison Nee, Freeport's Josh Beale and Springdale's Alex Pane — all top-10 scorers in the A-K Valley this season.
Myers' East team is loaded with talent. It also features Riverview's Sadie Buchser, a 1,400-point career scorer, and Megan Bonelli, who also made her mark in soccer as a goalkeeper and football as a kicker. Buchser also is a three-sport standout.
Bonelli is headed to Marshall to play soccer.
“We just want to run,” said East girls coach Joel Ceraso, Leechburg's coach. “I hope we can play man and maybe go to a press later in the game.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor for the Valley News Dispatch edition of the Tribune-Review. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.