Cager Classic All-Star Basketball Game offers final chance for teammates to share court

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | 11:02 PM

Deer Lakes’ Julia Hollibaugh walked off the floor a few weeks ago after the Lancers’ WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal loss to South Park with her high school basketball career in limbo.

At that time the Lancers remained alive for the PIAA tournament depending on other WPIAL playoff results, an opportunity that ultimately didn’t fall their way.

But Hollibaugh, three of her senior teammates and more than three dozen other players will get at least one more chance to hit the hardwood as high school players at the 23rd annual Cager Classic All-Star Basketball Game on Saturday at Highlands High School.

The event, featuring a skills competition at 7 p.m. Friday followed by a girls game at 5:45 p.m. Saturday and a boys game at 7:45, is held each year for senior basketball players in the Alle-Kiski Valley and surrounding areas.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Hollibaugh, who will be joined by teammates Abby Buechel, Victoria Keibler and Anna Solomon on the West girls team, which will be coached by Deer Lakes’ Dave Petruska. “It’s nice that my last game wasn’t losing to South Park. And since coach Dave will be there, it’ll be just like season games again with everyone there.”

Many of the 47 players in the Cager will be competing as high school basketball players for the final time. Others will participate in the Roundball Classic next month at Geneva College.

Still others, like Maddy Moore (Apollo-Ridge) of the East girls team, are preparing for collegiate careers.

“It’s nerve-wracking that I’m having to represent Apollo, but it’ll be fun, too,” said Moore, a Seton Hill recruit, who also is playing in the Roundball Classic. “These last couple high school games are going to be bittersweet, and then it’s off to play in college.”

Moore compared the Cager to an AAU experience, where she gets to play with high school opponents and also face off some unfamiliar opponents.

“You might be playing with somebody that you were against before,” said Moore, who said she was looking forward to playing with Burrell’s Kaylen Sharrow, a former section rival. “So during the season, me and her were never really truly opponents. We were always just having fun and being real nice to each other. It’ll be fun to just play with her.”

For the first time the event will include players from Butler and Peters Township: Emilee Altman, Colby Anderson and Isaiah Scribner from Butler and Isabella Mills from Peters Township, which will play for the PIAA Class 6A title on Friday.

“I’m most looking forward to competing against some of the top players in the WPIAL for one of the last times,” said Burrell’s Logan Bitar, a member of the East boys.

The Friday skills competition features individual 3-point and “hot shot” competitions, plus a coed hot shot contest with one girl and one boy player teaming up.

“I’ve always been at the Cager — it’s a big event and it’s close, so I’ve always went,” Highlands’ Seth Cohen said. “I like how they make it somewhat like All-Star weekend in the NBA with the 3-point contest, the skills and the game.”

Cohen, a member of the West boys, said he was looking forward to playing one more time with Highlands teammate Dylan Signorella.

Several players will have that opportunity one more time — for instance, Deer Lakes’ Brad Perrotte and Colin Kadlick, fresh off a run to the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals, or St. Joseph three-year starters Grant Bendis and Daniel Fabregas.

Then there are the Deer Lakes girls, who can field almost an entire starting lineup by themselves.

“It’s just nice to be able to play with them again,” Hollibaugh said. “I’m happy everyone’s going for that reason.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, or via Twitter .

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