ShareThis Page
Tough seasons to end on high note for girls at Cager Classic |

Tough seasons to end on high note for girls at Cager Classic

| Thursday, March 26, 2015 12:01 a.m
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Valley High School's Jame Reese lines up a shot during practice Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014.
Jame Reese, Valley, Cager Classic East
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Springdale's Rachel McKaveney looks for an opening during basketball practice at Springdale High School on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014.
Rachel McKaveney, Springdale, Cager Classic West
Kyjiah Peterson, Kiski Area, Cager Classic East

Senior Rachel McKaveney enjoyed plenty of success with the Springdale girls soccer team, which never is left out of the WPIAL playoff conversation.

But basketball season was a much different story. It was predictable and anticlimactic, and rough around the edges.

But McKaveney stayed the course on a team depleted by injuries and low numbers — both on the roster and on the scoreboard — and earned a reward along the way: a spot in Saturday night’s 19th annual Cager Classic at Highlands.

She will play for the West team.

“It was rough. I went from being on a soccer team that was winning all the time, to basketball where we really struggled,” McKaveney said. “I was starting every game and I was inexperienced. It was so hard not to quit.”

Valley’s Jame Reese and Kiski Area’s Kyjiah Peterson also were slightly taken aback when the Cager came calling. Both girls can relate to McKaveny, having played through a grind of a senior season.

Still, the Cager extended invitations regardless of their teams’ records or statistics.

If nothing else, McKaveney, Reese and Peterson are all-stars for their stick–to–itiveness and senior leadership.

They may not have had playoff games to cap their final seasons, but one last game carries special meaning for them.

“We want to have at least one player from each of the local teams,” Cager committee member and game announcer Bill Heasley said. “Even though their programs might be struggling, their schools need to be included and their efforts need to be recognized. I’m sure they work just as hard during practices and try their best in the games … they should be applauded for it.”

McKaveney, who said she was surprised to be selected for the Cager, felt swept along by the unevenness of the season. Springdale finished 0-19 and averaged just 11.7 points, all the while dealing with low roster numbers.

The Dynamos were down to four players at one point and even had to postpone a game until a fifth girl returned from an illness.

“They told me I had to play shooting guard and I was never a shooter,” McKaveney said. “It was hard to switch.”

Valley and Kiski Area also were programs that took the bear-with-us approach and aimed at better days ahead.

Valley (1-19) battled dwindling roster numbers and had trouble scoring points, averaging 13.7.

“It was challenging because we had players who didn’t know how to play and were just learning,” Reese said. “We worked together as much as we could, but it was a free-for-all.”

Reese, who has been active in basketball since the seventh grade, said she is looking forward to playing against skilled players in the Cager.

“To me, it never was about winning or losing,” Reese said. “I just love the game.”

Reese has attended the past two Cagers and said she hoped to get a chance to play in one.

Kiski Area also was bogged down by single-digit scores and finished 1-19. The numbers seemed even more troubling because Kiski Area is a Class AAAA school.

“It was a rough season but my team was really young,” Peterson said. “It was interesting to see a lot of girls start out and learn the game. We knew things were going to be rough going in, but we still had fun.”

Kiski Area’s program appears to be on the upswing, with numbers vastly increasing in a few years’ time under coach Nick Ionadi.

“I give my team a lot of credit,” Peterson said. “There aren’t a lot of teams that go through something like that. In past years, girls have quit. Our team didn’t do that.”

Ionadi said there is no “miracle cure,” but he essentially has a five-year plan to gradually get the Cavaliers back to respectability.

Peterson said she wouldn’t compare her basketball talents to that of some of the other all-stars, but calls the Cager “something to remember.”

McKaveney agrees — excuse her if she treats the Cager a bit like Super Bowl week.

“It will be a cool experience,” McKaveney said. “I am interested to see all of the other girls; there are some amazing players.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at

Categories: News
Tags: | |
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.