Plum seniors look forward to Cager Classic
While the Cager Classic annually marks the end of high school basketball season in the Alle-Kiski Valley, the all-star event also carries with it an air of finality for some of its participants.
For a few senior players, the Cager is their final organized basketball game. Picture lonely high tops dangling from telephone wires.
“For 99 percent of these kids, this is their last hurrah,” said Glenn Mills, one of the Cager's founders. “Most of them will go off to schools, get an education, get a nice job, and get married. This is it (basketball-wise).”
Take Plum's Wil Fuhrer. The Mustangs' physical forward, who will suit up for the East in Saturday's 19th annual Cager Classic at Highlands, plans to attend Penn State next year.
Aside from intramurals, he's finished playing basketball in a uniform. Fuhrer wants to walk on to the football team. He played quarterback at Plum.
“I have been playing two or three times a week at the (CCAC) Boyce courts and at the Penn Hills YMCA,” Fuhrer said. “I want to go and have fun. It will also be the last time I will get to play with my best friend.”
Fuhrer is referring to Plum senior guard Mike McGuire, who also was chosen to play for the East.
Two Plum girls will play for the East: cousins Courtney Zezza and Alyssa Zezza.
“Last year, (Plum) had (Nick) Stotler and Austin (Dedert) play (in the Cager),” Fuhrer said. “It will be a fun time.”
Local basketball fans have been served up Division I basketball talent many times before at Cager Classic.
Zezza and Burrell star Sydney Bordonaro will give the East girls a pair of Division I players.
The towering 6-4 Zezza, who checks in among the Plum program's top scorers with 1,068 career points, is headed to St. Francis (Pa.).
Bordonaro, Burrell's all-time leading scorer with 1,745 points, is headed to Pepperdine University in Malibu Beach, Calif.
“It will be cool to play with (Zezza),” Bordonaro said. “I hope to give her the ball and we can complement each other.”
Zezza, who scored 16.9 points a game and altered shots by merely displaying her wingspan in the lane, also thinks she can contribute to a one-two punch with Bordonaro.
“We both bring something strong and should work well together,” Zezza said. “I went to the Cager last year, and I thought it was a cool experience how they recognize you. And you get to meet girls you've played against before.”
Courtney Zezza is looking forward to playing with her cousin.
“It should be fun playing our last (high school) game together,” she said.
Bordonaro and Zezza also were picked to play in the Roundball Classic April 18 at Geneva College. But they won't be teammates that night.
All-star weekend rarely disappoints as some of the area's top senior players take the court together.
The boys East team features a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Kiski Area's Mike Simmons (19.1 ppg) and Apollo-Ridge's Alex Smith (16.6), as well as Pitt football recruit Tre Tipton, a standout guard.
The West has Fox Chapel's Billy Urso (16.8), Deer Lakes' Scott Ventura (15.1) and Knoch's Matt Zanella (13.9).
The game will mark the last Cager Classic for Ford City and Kittanning players. The schools are merging to form Armstrong.
Ford City's coaches, Greg Hutcherson (boys) and Al Davis (girls), will coach the East teams. Hutcherson recently was named the first boys hoops coach at Armstrong, while Davis is retiring after a stellar career with the Sabers.
The Cager has seen its share of competitive games. Both the boys and girls all-time series are tied 9-9. Last year, the boys teams combined for a Cager record 221 points as the West won 112-109.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.