Former Cager Classic MVP Corey Smith now coaching in all-star basketball game

Sunday, March 27, 2022 | 4:29 PM

Kiski Area coach Corey Smith has come full circle with the Cager Classic.

He was the East MVP in 2002, an assistant under Greg Hutcherson and now the head coach for the East as the Cager Classic returns after a two-year hiatus brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The event takes place Saturday at Highlands High School and involves 19 area high schools. The girls game begins at 5:45 p.m. and the boys at 7:45.

Thursday’s practice is open to the public, and Friday’s skills competition has been a staple for local fans in the previous 23 seasons of the Cager Classic.

Smith also is in a unique position regarding players in the game he previously has coached.

Current Cavaliers named to the East team are James Pearson and Joe Lukas. Smith also coached Leechburg’s Eli Rich when he was in charge of the Blue Devils program.

Smith has guided even more in the Top Level all-star development program.

“It’s going to be a great thing,” Smith said of the Cager’s return. “I also had Trevor Smulik and Bo Swartz of West Shamokin in the Top Level (AAU program). I can’t wait to get out there with these guys, and I’m glad it’s back.”

The girls game will feature four-year starter Reese Hasley from Deer Lakes. Postseason basketball is routine for Hasley: The Lancers made the WPIAL playoffs all four seasons with her in the lineup.

“It’s really awesome that they brought this (event) back,” Hasley said. “I’m real excited to represent my school and my team.”

Seniors from the last two seasons weren’t able have the game because of pandemic concerns that materialized several weeks before the 2020 all-star games.

Hasley feels this will be a fitting end for seniors who have had to endure various covid restrictions athletically, academically and socially.

“This will be a good send-off for us,” Hasley said. “The last two years we weren’t able to do things, and it’s awesome to be on the floor one last time with a lot of people I’ve gotten to know.”

Even though the Cager Classic is designed for fun, Smith has thrown down the gauntlet to one of his players.

“I told James Pearson he’s got a lot of catching up to do to me. I was able to get a triple-double in the 2002 game,” Smith said.

Cager Classic rosters


East: Ava Black (Mars), Maggie Hack (Leechburg), Karly Keller (Kiski Area), Layne Miller (Armstrong), Riley Hannan (Kiski Area), Aubrey Burns (Armstrong), Kai Johnson (Plum), Kaitlyn Pelaia (Mars), Makenna Maier (Butler), Hope Clark (Burrell), Aubrey Tack (Butler); Coach: Nick Dizon (Kiski Area); Assistants: Rich Johnson, Mackenzie Fello, Don Keller

West: Reese Hasley (Deer Lakes), Lily Hawk (Knoch), Trinity Lockwood-Morris (St. Joseph), Jocelyn Luzier (Highlands), Kayla Hoehler (Hampton), Olivia Rochkind (Cheswick Christian), Sophie Kelly (Hampton), Brianna Thompson (Springdale), Mackenzie McGraw (Knoch), Madilyn Boyer (Knoch), Maria Fabregas (Highlands); Coach: Dennis Jones (St. Joseph); Assistant: Brian Swierczewski


East: Donovan Callahan (Burrell), Raine Gratzmiller (Butler), Trevor Smulik (West Shamokin), Bo Swartz (West Shamokin), Ben Aftanas (Valley), Brandon Coury (Burrell), Joe Lukas (Kiski Area), Micah Black (Riverview), Eli Rich (Leechburg), James Pearson (Kiski Area), Cameron Moss (Plum); Mason Conroy (Armstrong). Coach: Corey Smith (Kiski Area); Assistants: Ulers Touchstone, Rich Smith, Isaiah Gonzalez, Kristian Clayton

West: Zach Schlegal (Mars), Matt DeMatteo (Hampton), Ryan Reinsfelder (Springdale), Chris Dvorak (Mars), Armend Karpuzi (Deer Lakes), Lucas Tiglio (Deer Lakes), Carter Leri (Highlands), Ryan Lang (Knoch), Rylan Zale (St. Joseph), Zephaniah Malloy (Cheswick Christian), Matt Burkholder (Apollo-Ridge), Jason Kijowski (Freeport). Coach: Hart Coleman (St. Joseph); Assistants: Mark Fairman, A. Stefanik

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