George Guido: Rare PIAA playoff venue change delays Highlands game by 4 hours

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Saturday, June 12, 2021 | 8:15 PM


The PIAA pulled off the rare and difficult task of changing a game venue Thursday when the Highlands-Bishop McDevitt softball game was transferred from Mount Aloysius College in Cresson to Central Cambria High School in Ebensburg.

The first game of a state quarterfinal doubleheader, Ligonier Valley led Chesnut Ridge, 1-0, in the sixth inning when rain halted the contest. PIAA officials moved the game to Central Cambria, 9 miles away. The rains persisted, however, and Ligonier Valley eventually was declared the winner in a legal game.

That set the stage for Highlands, but the Golden Rams had to wait until rain stopped and finally got on the field at 8:00 p.m., four hours after the scheduled starting time.

Highlands won 6-1 and will head to the Class 4A semifinals Monday against Beaver in a rematch of the June 2 WPIAL title game, won by the Bobcats, 2-1.

But back to the Ligonier Valley game. It wasn’t the first time the PIAA moved a playoff venue in the middle of a game. On March 4, 2008, Greensburg Central Catholic and OLSH were in the second half of a girls basketball game when the lights went out at North Allegheny.

A motorist had wrecked into a utility pole, plunging Wexford into darkness. Power company officials said the outage would be fixed in up to five hours. School officials contacted then-North Hills athletic director Dan Cardone to see if he could get his middle school’s gym set up quickly. The move was made, and teams, media folks and spectators made the 6-mile jaunt to North Hills to finish the game, won by Greensburg Central, 55-50. Blackhawk’s boys then defeated Greensburg Salem in a true nightcap that ended just past 11 p.m.

A Highlands victory Monday would put the Golden Rams in the state championship game slated for 1:30 p.m on Thursday at Penn State’s Beard Field against either Bethlehem Catholic or Tunkhannock. The only other Highlands trip to the PIAA softball playoffs was in 1981 when the Golden Rams lost to Carrick in a first-round game.

Incidentally, those traveling to Mars for Monday’s 2 p.m. game should be aware the Mars softball field is about a mile East of the high school campus. Turn off state Route 228 onto Officer Edward Brooks Road and keep your fingers crossed for nice weather.

Armstrong will battle North Hills at 4 p.m. in a 5A title game rematch from June 2.

High school swan songs

It was 50 years ago last week that two venerable local high schools closed for good.

Oakmont and Verona shut down operations, paving the way for the rivals to form Riverview High School just two months later.

The last Oakmont athletic event was an 11-0 baseball loss to North Hills on May 20, 1971. Two days earlier, the school had its final athletics awards dinner. Later that week, Rich Cecil won two PIAA state field event titles at Penn State, hurling the javelin 198 feet, 11 inches and the discus 149-7.

Verona did not sponsor spring sports, so the last athletic event for the Panthers was the second round of the WPIAL Class B basketball playoffs March 5, a 102-49 loss to Avonworth.

The Antelopes were led that night in scoring by Dan Bonner’s 23 points.

Bonner went on to play at Virginia and has been a CBS and ESPN college basketball broadcaster and analyst for 38 seasons.

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