Scholastic Notebook – 02/22/2013

Friday, February 22, 2013 | 3:09 PM





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Brace yourself and get ready to read something extremely unusual. Here goes:

The Apollo-Ridge and Kittanning boys basketball teams both won first-round games in the WPIAL playoffs and are now one win away from the semifinals.

WPIAL semifinals, Apollo-Ridge and Kittanning have never been mentioned all together before. It’s more unusual than a Pirates winning season.

But the WPIAL quarterfinals are tonight and tomorrow and both Apollo-Ridge and Kittanning are alive. They are most certainly the “New Kids on the Block” stories of the playoffs so far.

Apollo-Ridge plays Jeannette in a Class AA quarterfinal tomorrow afternoon. Since Elders Ridge and Apollo high schools merged to form Apollo-Ridge in the 1969-70 school year, this is only the third time the Apollo-Ridge boys team has been to the quarterfinals. The others were 1991 and 1988. Apollo-Ridge upset Sto-Rox in a first-round game Wednesday.

In 1991, Apollo-Ridge lost in the quarterfinals to Serra, 63-51. Apollo-Ridge got to the semifinals in 1988, though. The Vikings beat Quaker Valley in the quarterfinals before losing to Carlynton, 43-42, in the semifinals.

For Kittanning, the quarterfinal drought is even longer. Kittanning is playing Beaver in tonight’s Class AAA quarterfinals. The last quarterfinal appearance for Kittanning was 1982. Now get this: The last time Kittanning made the semifinals was 1925. Kittanning lost to Edgewood that year.

Kittanning upset Central Valley in this year’s first round.

For sure, it has been a memorable season for both Apollo-Ridge and Kittanning, which are about only 25 miles apart. Will they make some more memories this weekend?

Carrying the Vikings

A year ago, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough put Hopewell on her back and carried the Vikings to a WPIAL championship. Can she do it again? Her first playoff game says she might be up to the task.

Walker-Kimbrough, a 6-foot senior, scored 35 points in Hopewell’s first-round game. A year ago, Walker-Kimbrough had a terrific tournament, averaging 31.5 points in four games.

Also, the further Hopewell goes in the playoffs, Walker-Kimbrough climbs the list of the WPIAL-City League’s all-time leading scorers. She is now 15th on the list with 2,317 points.

Walker-Kimbrough could move up a few more spots by the end of the season. The five players directly in front of her are Indiana’s Cindy Davies (2,322), Southmoreland’s Vanessa Abel (2,327), Ellwood City’s Anne Malkowiak (1989), Albert Gallatin’s Loui Hall (2,440) and West Mifflin’s Tanisha Wright (2,477).

Section Strength

Section 3 of WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball had a strong reputation entering the playoffs, and Section 3 teams lived up to the billing through the first round. Section 3 is the only section in the entire WPIAL boys field that had all four teams advance to the quarterfinals.

Section 2 of Class AAAA, Section 5 of Class AAA and Section 1 of Class A all had three teams advance to the quarterfinals.

The worst sections were Section 1 of Class AAAA and Section 5 of Class AA. Both sections failed to advance a team to the quarterfinals.

In WPIAL girls basketball, two sections advanced all four teams to the quarterfinals – Class AAAA Section 4 and Class AAA Section 2. In Class A, Section 1 and Section 2 both advanced three teams.

Two sections failed to advance a team to the quarterfinals – Class AAA Section 3 and Class A Section 3.

Holzshu Retires

Paul Holzshu has coached his final basketball game.

Holzshu has coached on the high school and college level for 40 years, but has decided to retire as Shaler’s boys coach.

Holzshu, 63, has been a head coach also at Penn Hall Academy, East Allegheny, Franklin Regional and Gateway and Shaler. He took over the Shaler job when Howie Ruppert died suddenly in 2008. He already was Shaler’s athletic director.

Holzshu also was a head coach at West Liberty University (W.Va.), Penn State-New Kensington and Garrett Community College (Md.). He was an assitant coach at Shaler, Slippery Rock University and Indiana University of Pa.

“I think what happens is there comes a time when things need to be replaced, for whatever reason,” Holzshu said. “The tread on the tire is worn out. The suit of clothes is no longer in style. I just feel like, given the situation of this program, it’s the right time for a new direction, with a new person who can inject a new philosophy, a new system and new blood.”

A year ago, Holzshu guided Shaler to the best season in school history as the Titans made it to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals.

But this year’s team finished in last place in Class AAAA Section 3 and the Titans aren’t expected to be strong at any point in the near future.

“I’m happy I was able to finish up with this group and be part of this year’s team and staff,” Holzshu said. “I’m proud of the fact that on most given nights these kids were pretty competitive. No, they didn’t win a lot, but they competed.”

Holzshu will continue as Shaler’s athletic director.

Football Hirings

It might seem a little strange to not see Jack McCurry on the North Hills sideline next season. But the new coach has been on the North Hills sideline for almost two decades, and also used to wear the red and white Indians’ uniform.

North Hills hired Pat Carey as the new coach Monday night. He takes over for McCurry, who was at the helm for 35 seasons. Carey has been a North Hills assistant coach for 19 years. Carey also played for McCurry from 1985-87 and was a memer of the famous 1987 team that finished as USA Today’s No. 1 team in the country. He was a running back-defensive back before going on to play at James Madison.

Carey has been North Hills’ defensive coordinator the past 15 seasons. He said he will continue to run the defense.

“Obviously, the head coach has his thumb on everything and I will have a say with what goes on throughout the entire team,” Carey said. “But definitely defense is where I excel and will remain.”

While Carey takes at his alma mater for a legend, the situation is similar at Bishop Canevin. Longtime coach Bob Jacoby retired and Thursday the school named Darren Schoppe the new coach. Schoppe is a 1991 Bishop Canevin graduate.

Schoppe was a Bishop Canevin assistant from 1993 to 2005 before moving on to become an assistant coach at South Fayette. He was South Fayette’s defensive coordinator when the Lions won a WPIAL title in 2010.

Diving for Gold

The WPIAL diving championships are Friday and Saturday on MSA Sports and three divers are trying to repeat as champions.

The Class AA boys and girls championships are Friday at South Park. The Class AAA boys and girls championships are Saturday at North Allegheny.

Pine-Richland senior Dominic Giordano is trying for his second consecutive Class AAA boys title.

In Class AA, Chartiers Valley sophomore Maria Lohman won the title last year as a freshman. South Park junior Billy Rountree finished first last year as a sophomore.

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