West girls edge East in double OT in record-setting Cager Classic

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Saturday, April 2, 2022 | 9:44 PM


At the midway point of the first overtime of Saturday’s 25th Cager Classic girls all-star game at Highlands, a loose ball off a missed shot caused a mad scramble involving a couple of players from both the East and West squads.

Bodies collided as they hit the floor.

Instincts took over, and even in the midst of a good-natured all-star game, hustle, competitiveness and the will to win remained.

Over the two 20-minute halves and two four-minute extra sessions, the teams scored the most points combined in Cager girls history — 176 — and the West set a record for the most points by one team in its 91-85 victory.

“This was just an amazing experience,” said Hampton’s Kayla Hoehler, who earned West MVP honors after scoring a game-best 21 points with five 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

“I couldn’t be any more grateful and thankful for the opportunity. Just the effort shown by both teams, it was awesome. To be able to pull out the win for the West for the first time in I don’t know how long, it was a great feeling.”

The previous single-game scoring record by one team came by the East in an 88-77 victory over the West in 2018.

Teams representing the East had a hold on recent victories as they came into Saturday’s matchup with seven wins in a row.

The West had a 10-point lead with 1:45 left in regulation, but the East rallied and scored the final 10 points for a 71-71 tie.

Mars’ Ava Black, the East MVP, scored six of her team-best 20 points during that closing stretch. She tallied 14 points in the second half and finished the game with 12 rebounds and six assists.

“This whole entire thing, meeting new people, becoming teammates with girls I had played against in the section the past four years and being able to play such an exciting game, it was really cool,” Black said.

“I thought that we played really well together, even though we had only been together the past couple of days. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball, and they were getting their points, too. There was just so much amazing talent on the floor for both teams.”

Each team scored nine points in the first overtime. The West got a layup from Hampton’s Sophie Kelly and a pair of free throws from Knoch’s Maddie Boyer to open an 84-80 lead early in the second overtime.

Trailing 86-82, the East got a pair of foul shots from Butler’s Makenna Maier and another point at the line from Kiski Area’s Karly Keller to close to within one.

But that was as close as the East would get as Deer Lakes senior and Grove City commit Reese Hasley drained one of her three 3-pointers with 47 seconds on the clock to give the West some breathing room.

Boyer, who will play in college at Penn State Behrend, then salted the game away with a pair of free throws with nine seconds left.

“It was just exciting to watch the girls show their skills in this environment,” said West coach Dennis Jones, the coach at St. Joseph. “They went out and played unimpeded. I was fortunate to be able to coach them. It was a lot of fun.”

Hasley finished with 18 points. She scored eight points in the second half and led the West with eight over the two overtimes.

Boyer also finished in doubles figures with 16. Highlands’ Jocelyn Luzier drilled a trio of 3-pointers and ended with nine points.

The East landed four players in double figures. In addition to Black’s big game, her Planets teammate, Kaitlyn Pelaia, finished with 14 points.

Maier and Kiski Area’s Karly Keller added 13 and 10 points, respectively.

The teams combined for 19 3-pointers: 13 for the West and six for the East.

“With the competitive side of me, the coaches and the girls, it’s not fun to lose it, but at the end of the day, it might have been one of the best Cagers ever,” said East coach Nick Dizon, the head coach at Kiski Area.

“That’s just a testament to just how good girls basketball is in the A-K Valley. It showed in a game like this. Both teams showed a lot of fight. Neither team wanted to give up. It provided a whole lot of excitement. It was cool to coach against a lot of these girls throughout the season and then see that competitive edge from them in this game.”

Saturday’s game was extra special for Luzier and fellow Highlands senior Maria Fabregas, who got to play one more game on their home court.

“I just had a great time, and I am glad we got the win,” said Fabregas, who had seven points and four rebounds.

“It was really cool to play with those who have been opponents for so long. We had some great games with Knoch this year, and it was great to be on the same side as (Boyer, Mackenzie McGraw, Lily Hawk). They are now my friends, which is so cool.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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