PIAA playoff run forces change of Cager Classic coach
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• 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.
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