George Guido: Covid concerns force organizers to cancel 2021 Cager Classic all-star game

Saturday, February 27, 2021 | 2:18 PM

For the second straight season, the A-K Valley Cager Classic has been canceled.

Organizers were hoping to get some of the area’s top basketball players on the hardwood, but covid concerns halted any hopes of them competing in what has become a local, postseason highlight for more than 20 years.

With gyms being limited to 10% of capacity, it would have been unrealistic to meet expenses with only 130 attendees in the 1,300-seat gym at Highlands.

4 in a row for Highlands

The Highlands boys basketball team set a program record with its fourth consecutive section title. The last time an Alle-Kiski Valley team won as many straight section titles was the Apollo-Ridge girls, who won six section crowns from 1990-95.

The last boys team to win four consecutive section titles was Springdale from 1984-87.

Highlands still is far away from the local record of 12 straight section titles won by Ford City from 1927-38.

Bartha rolls on

Ray Bartha returned to coach the Apollo-Ridge girls this season, and the end result is another playoff trip for the Vikings.

Bartha has led Apollo-Ridge to playoff berths in six decades starting with the 1970s, 80’s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s, and now in 2021. In his 35th season, Bartha has 544 victories and 24 WPIAL playoff appearances.

Things started off slowly this season with A-R losing three of its first four, but a 46-42 upset over perennial powerhouse Greensburg Central Catholic on Feb. 8 propelled the Vikings to wins in five of their final six regular season games.

The No. 11 Vikings will travel to No. 6 OLSH at 6 p.m. Tuesday to open the Class 2A first round.

Apollo-Ridge is the last area girls team to win a WPIAL title, taking Class 2A honors over Brentwood in 1991.

Playoff hosts

With the WPIAL counting on most schools to host playoff games for the first time since 1984, several Alle-Kiski Valley schools will be starting the postseason at home this week.

• Highlands boys will host Trinity at 6 p.m. Wednesday. It will be the first time the Golden Rams opened the playoffs at home since defeating Franklin Regional, 52-43, in 1984.

• Springdale boys will play Winchester-Thurston at home in a 6 p.m. contest. The last time Donald McGhee Fieldhouse hosted a postseason game was in ’84 when the Dynamos knocked off Shenango, 80-49.

• Leechburg boys will face Mapletown at 6 p.m. Monday at Lewis Hicks Gym. The last playoff game there was in ’84, when the Blue Devils routed Jefferson-Morgan, 81-35.

• No. 2 Fox Chapel faces Bethel Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Foxes lost to Seneca Valley, 57-54, at home 37 years ago.

• In girls basketball, Fox Chapel will square off against Ringgold at 6 p.m. Monday. In 1984, the Foxes blasted Upper St. Clair, 71-41.

• Plum’s girls will play Lincoln Park at 6 p.m. Monday. The 1984 Mustangs defeated Hempfield, 52-48.

Vilsack returns as Ag Secretary

Former Shady Side Academy quarterback Tom Vilsack has returned to Washington, D.C. to serve as Secretary of Agriculture in the Biden Administration.

In a rare look of bipartisanship, Vilsack, 70, was confirmed Tuesday by a 93-7 vote in the U.S. Senate.

Vilsack served in the same position all eight years of the Obama Administration and was Iowa’s governor for eight years.

After being adopted from a Roman Catholic orphanage, Vilsack grew up in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill section. Shady Side was not a WPIAL member during Vilsack’s time as a student and was instead a member of the Interstate Prep League.

More High School Basketball

Sam Salih resigns as Greensburg Central Catholic girls basketball coach
PIAA basketball committee wants state semifinals on weekend, not weekday
Carlynton boys move forward having learned from late-season losses
As memory of stinging end fades, Bishop Canevin boys savor championship season
Westmoreland high school notebook: Norwin’s Bilinsky gets 1 more game

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