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PIAA playoff run forces change of Cager Classic coach

| Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Cager Classic
  • What: The Fifth Annual Alle-Kiski Valley Cager Classic all-star basketball game featuring 48 local senior hoop stars from 21 school districts.

  • When: Individual competitions - 7 p.m. Friday. All-star games - Saturday: girls 6 p.m.; boys 8 p.m.

  • Where: Highlands High School, Natrona Heights (sellout crowd expected).

  • Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at B&J Sporting Goods (724) 226-2762, or by contacting Gary Miller (724) 295-3329 or Doug Scholl (724) 224-5324. There is a $1 donation for Friday's Individual Competition and tickets for the All-Star games are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

  • More info: www.cagerclassic.com .
  • If MasterCard created one of their famous television ads for the Cager Classic all-star basketball game, the script might go something like this:

    Air Jordan basketball sneakers: $150.

    Cager Classic adult ticket: $5.

    Finishing your high school basketball career in a prestigious all-star game: priceless.

    The Fifth Annual Alle-Kiski Valley Cager Classic all-star basketball tournament opens Thursday night and continues through Saturday.

    Thursday, 48 local senior players will meet for a night of practice and making friends.

    The on-court competition starts Friday night with the individual competitions, and the event concludes Saturday with two all-star games.

    As the event rapidly approaches, organizers Gary Miller, Glenn Mills and Doug Scholl are faced with final details. The Committee faced a setback over the weekend.

    The Pine-Richland boys qualified for the PIAA playoffs and won their first-round game, thus advancing to the second round Wednesday night.

    Pine-Richland coach Dave DeGregorio, who is the coach of the West Boys in the Cager, decided that he needed to focus his full attention on the PIAA playoffs. He withdrew as coach late Sunday afternoon.

    'We understand the circumstances and feel that DeGregorio should focus on his team,' Miller said. 'We wish Pine-Richland the best of luck.'

    DeGregorio said he had no choice but to prepare to win Wednesday and go on playing in the PIAA tournament.

    'It (withdrawing as coach) was the smart thing to do,' he said.

    DeGregorio will be replaced by St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson, who agreed to answer the Cager Committee's call for help.

    'It's people like him that step up and do things when others are in a pinch,' Scholl said.

    Said Robinson, 'I was kind of surprised when I got the call. I know it's under difficult circumstances, but I'm very honored that they chose me.'

    Robinson said he understands DeGregorio's position.

    'It's neat to still have teams like that in the PIAA playoffs,' Robinson said.

    If Pine-Richland and the Shady Side Academy teams continue their PIAA playoff runs, Robinson could lose two players, Brendan Malone and Eli Friedman, from his roster.

    'This has happened before and it's something we can't control,' Miller said.

    East vs. West

    The series between the East and West teams is tied at 2-2 for all four squads. Last year, the West Girls and East Boys were victorious and look to dominate once again.

    East Boys coach Brian Kovalovsky from Ford City has a team dominated by guards and looks to use perimeter shooting as his strategy.

    Robinson, the West Boys coach, plans to play a game from inside the paint.

    'I think it should be an interesting match-up,' Robinson said. 'We need to stop their perimeter game and he (Kovalovsky) is going to have to stop our inside game.'

    In the girls game, West coach Tom Saulle from Freeport and East coach Mark Ziemianski from Burrell are in an awkward position.

    'I know the girls on the East team better than the West,' Saulle said with a laugh. 'Those were the teams we played against.'

    Ziemianski's position is similar. Many of the girls on the West team are from schools Burrell competed against during the season.

    'I'm going to watch the girls play (at practice Thursday) and see who plays well together,' Ziemianski replied. 'All these girls can play.'

    Both Saulle and Ziemianski plan to let the girls run the court and score, and they agree that the goal is to have fun.

    'I like it because the emphasis is on the kids,' Kovalovsky said. 'It's the last high school game for some of these kids.'

    Pressure's on

    Pressure• What pressure?

    'I'm not experiencing any nervousness right now,' said Nicole Fischer, one of two players representing Fox Chapel.

    Fischer and Erin Gillette, who also is representing Fox Chapel, have a tradition to follow.

    For the past four Cager Classics, a Fox Chapel player has been awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy.

    'My coach (Dan Ross) told me that I better get the MVP,' Fischer said. 'It's just a tradition, but I'm going to work hard and not worry about getting it.'

    Mike Gross, a Burrell guard who was the leading senior scorer in the Valley, could be in the running for the MVP trophy.

    'It would mean a lot considering it's the end of my high school career,' said Gross.

    Rosters
    East girls West girls East boys West boys
    21 Sarah Brady 5-9, forward Leechburg

    55 Edana Gallagher 5-6, guard Kittanning

    35 Marcie Hepler 6-2, center Kiski Area

    25 Kayla Hornack 5-4, guard Burrell

    43 Shayla Jones 5-6, guard Valley

    23 Andrea Kolakowski 5-9, forward Apollo-Ridge

    11 Melissa Megats 5-5, guard Ches. Christian Academy

    15 Kristin Myers 5-6, forward Ford City

    31 Amy Ploskunak 5-8, forward Plum

    33 Tera Stewart 5-11, forward Ford City

    13 Jessica Witchey 5-8, forward Burrell

    41 Lia Wyland 5-5, guard Riverview
    32 Kelly Busch 5-6, guard Shady Side Acad.

    20 Lizzie Demor 5-5, guard Pine-Richland

    24 Nicole Fischer 6-0, center Fox Chapel

    14 Erin Gillette 5-9, forward Fox Chapel

    50 Courtney Haynes 5-9, forward Freeport

    30 Alison Leuthold 5-7, forward Deer Lakes

    40 Melissa Lewetag 5-8, forward Knoch

    22 Tara Malecki 5-4, guard Highlands

    10 Kerry McKinney 5-5, guard Deer Lakes

    44 Laura McMeekin 5-10, forward Mars

    34 Kelly Quigley 5-11, center Hampton

    12 Ali Wolff 5-9, forward Hampton
    23 Omar Alvarado 5-11, guard Plum

    41 Mike Atwood 6-2, forward Leechburg

    55 Bill Fergeson 6-2, guard Apollo-Ridge

    13 Jarod Grafton 5-10, guard Ford City

    15 Michael Gross 6-1, guard Burrell

    21 Jason Kerr 5-11, guard Ford City

    11 Zach Odgen 5-9, guard Kittanning

    31 Reno Papale 6-0, guard Ches. Christian Academy

    35 Ian Pearson 6-3, forward Kiski Area

    25 Bob Reifschneider 6-4, forward Burrell

    33 Jeff Schultz 6-5, forward Riverview

    43 Kellan Thompson 6-2, guard Valley
    12 Justin Bouch 6-3, forward Highlands

    22 Mike Baumgartel 5-11, guard Mars

    40 Dane Cardone 5-10, guard Hampton

    14 Nathan Conroy 6-3, forward Springdale

    20 Jason Dolmayer 5-10, guard Knoch

    32 John Driscoll 6-4, forward Deer Lakes

    30 Eli Friedman 6-4, center Shady Side Academy

    34 John Katich 6-4, forward Deer Lakes

    24 Brendan Malone 6-2, forward Pine-Richland

    50 Matt Small 6-3, guard Hampton

    10 Aaron Smith 6-1, forward St. Joseph

    44 Bobby Woods 6-3, forward Freeport


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