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DiVito Named Pennsylvania Player Of The Year

Kaden DiVito, a 5-11 guard who has starred at Cornell since the 4th grade, this week was named Pennsylvania Boys Basketball Player Of The Year.

DiVito, whose senior season was cut short by the virus pandemic, finished with 1970 points and 77 wins as a varsity player for Coach Bill Sacco.

Son of Jennifer DiVito, Kaden is also an honor student and a football and baseball player.

He filled several roles for the Raiders during his four varsity seasons. He could score prolifically when needed, as he showed with 46 points against Deer Lakes and many outputs in the high 20s or 30s. When opponents double teamed him, he could lead the team in assists. He could play the quarterback role, getting the ball to team mates in scoring position. Or he could play the defensive closer, harassing opposing shooters.

He was deadly from three point range, but if opponents came out and overplayed him, he could slash down the lane or drive the baseline. He had an explosive first step which he used to great effectiveness against taller opponents who tried to block his shots.

Out on the fast break in Cornell's run and gun attack, he was a deceptive ballhandler who could out dribble a defender to the basket or fire long passes to teammates for layups.

That ballhandling also came in handy late in games when Cornell was trying to protect a lead. Cornell employed an outside weave offense in such cases, and DiVito had to keep the ball away from defenders.

He was durable. He was often knocked to the floor, especially after going high for layups. He was also often run over while playing defense against taller opponents. But he would average 30 minutes a game, only coming out late in the fourth quarter after a win was guaranteed.

DiVito was also a reliable rebounder, leaping far higher than his height would suggest. He was good for 7-10 rebounds a game.

As a freshman and sophomore he dreamed of playing for a Division I college. When his size levelled off at 5-11 that dream faded. But his skill set will make him a formidable competitor at Washington & Jefferson.

The award came as quite a surprise when he was notified.

"I didn't even know Pennsylvania named a state Player of the Year," he told reporters. "When they called I was just shocked."

But he considers it a shared trophy. "It's really for my teammates, my coaches and the community. Without all of them, this would never have happened."

He also had the advantage of moving into the Cornell starting lineup as a freshman, which not only gave him time to build his statistics, but meant by the time he was a junior, he was battle hardened.

Having played in the WPIAL and State tournaments every year helped, too, because it meant coaches and sportswriters across the state, who vote for the award, got to see him. Cornell played in Pitt's Petersen Events Center during the WPIAL Tournament, and travelled to places like Johnstown and Clarion to play State Tournament games.

He is the first Cornell player to ever be named Player of the Year.

"It's amazing," Coach Bill Sacco said. "But he earned it. He deserves it. We wouldn't have gotten as far as we did without him."

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Cornell Trio Signs With Washington & Jefferson

The greatest trio of athletes in Cornell High School history isn't done. They have all signed to continue their careers at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa. Kaden DiVito (#15 in photo below) and Isaiah Langston (#3 in photo at right) have signed to play basketball for Coach Ethan Stewart Smith. Zaire Harrison (passing the football in photo below) has signed to play football for Coach Mike Sirianni. And the three plan to room together. "We'll have a suite," DiVito explains. "We've already talked to the coaches and dorm people about it."

They could even end up playing together. DiVito and Langston were outstanding wide receivers in football. Harrison was an outstanding basketball player. All three were outstanding baseball players. At a small college, many players play more than one sport. The temptation will be there. And Harrison is not opposed. "Obviously, my first priority has to be football, and if we make it to the postseason that could go into December," he told reporters. "But after that, if the coaches agreed, I'd definitely be interested."

The coaches don't seem to have a problem. "We never shut the door on guys playing multiple sports," says Smith. "I have a great relationship with Coach Sirianni, and Coach Mountain in baseball. If that is something these guys had an interest in, we'd work with them."

Washington & Jefferson is a Division III school, which competes in the Presidents Conference against Waynesburg, Carnegie Mellon, Westminster, Geneva, Thiel, Grove City, Bethany, Case Western Reserve and St. Vincent. But it's not small time. W & J has one of the proudest football traditions in the NCAA. Its basketball teams were once strong, and have been rebuilding for the last few years under Smith.

But Washington & Jefferson is nationally known for its strong academics. It boasts small classes and all professors possessing a doctorate.

W & J is also known for its odd calendar, which features Fall and Spring semesters and a Winter semester in which each student takes only one class, 9 - 5 five days a week for a month, delving deep into some topic related to the student's major field. It has an enrollment of 1300.

A major reason DiVito signed there is its Math, Statistics & Data Analysis Department, which is ranked among the nation's top 20. He plans to major in Statistics with the hope of becoming a data analyst for an NBA or Division I college basketball program.

W & J began recruiting DiVito his junior year and became really serious in December. When he visited the campus the brand new facilities won him over. He signed in February. "It was a load off my shoulders. I could then focus on the WPIAL and State tournaments."

He then helped talk Langston and Harrison into joining him. "It had to be their decision," he insists. "But I pushed it every chance I got."

The three have played football, basketball and baseball together since grade school. They helped Cornell restore its football program, leading it from no program at all to the conference title and WPIAL semifinals. They led Cornell to four straight basketball postseasons, reaching the State Elite Eight (quarterfinals) their junior and senior years. This year's tournament was suspended due to rhe Coronavirus but Cornell was considered a serious contender to win the state title.

DiVito was named Pennsylvania's Player of the Year and was named to the First Team All State Team. Langston was named to the Third Team All State Team, although he was coming on very strong in the postseason and had the pandemic not halted the tournament, he would likely have moved up to the second or even first team.

Harrison, playing quarterback, passed for 2089 yards this season and 5238 yards during his four year high school career, making him the outstanding quarterback in Cornell history and the #2 quarterback in the WPIAL.

The three helped Cornell to 77 basketball wins during their four year high school run.

DiVito scored 1970 points, making him Cornell's all time leading scorer. Had Cornell played one or two more tournament games, he would certainly have passed the 2000 point mark.

Ironically, DiVito averaged fewer points this year, 20.6, than he did last year, 26.3. But that was because almost everyone double teamed him on defense, and Langston and Harrison increased their scoring output.

The friends face opposite situations at W & J.

For four years at Cornell, Harrison was THE quarterback. Now he will face stiff competition just to get on the field. . Among his freshman team mates is QB Drew Schiano, who set numerous state records in Ohio with nine TD passes in one game and 67 in his senior season. Schiano won the Tony Fisher Northwest Ohio Player of the Year award. The class also includes Central Pennsylvania All Star Seth Georg, a linebacker and defensive end from Portage HS, and Ohio All Star slot receiver Anthony Rosali. These freshmen will join a program of veteran upperclassmen, who finished last year with a bowl win. Where Cornell was always an underdog, fighting to upset teams with fourth quarter heroics, W & J will open the season as the favorite to win the conference. Any year the Prexies do not win nine or more games is considered a disappointment.

After four years of playing at Frank Letteri Field before slim crowds, Harrison will now play in sold out Cameron Stadium (photo, below), a 2000 seat facility which opened in 1885 and has been renovated several times since, most recently in 2018. When W & J competed in Division I, it hosted Pitt, West Virginia, Penn State, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

It has hosted players like George Gipp and coaches like Knute Rockne. The 1922 Prexies held the University of California to a 0-0 tie in the Rose Bowl and were named national champs. In 2019 Cameron Stadium was named one of the top 10 Division III stadiums.

Harrison will major in Business, another department in which W & J is highly ranked nationally. Head Coach Mike Sirianni began recruiting him during his junior year. Zaire visited several other schools but after seeing W & J he decided he fit in there much better. He'll be part of a 25 player freshman class and has already been online messaging back and forth among his future team mates. Normally, he'd report to W & J in the Summer to start working out, but the Coronavirus has placed those plans on hold.

He is certain of one thing, however. "My goal is to play in the postseason and they have a history of doing that almost every year. I can't wait," he told reporters.

DiVito and Langston will enjoy playing in the brand new Salvitti gym (photo at right). The gym was completely stripped out and renovated in 2019. It has a new floor, lighting, seats, sound system and dressing rooms. The photo here shows the seats retracted but when extended the gym seats 2,000. Back in the 20th Century when W & J teams were competitive they drew capacity crowds, but since 2000 they have struggled and the crowds have declined.

Coach Stewart Smith is hoping DiVito, Langston and the other incoming freshmen will help complete a massive rebuilding process. Once proud W & J totally collapsed in the 2010s, winning 4, 2 and then one game in three straight years. The school hired him from Carnegie Mellon to turn the situation around.

His first year he had only six players. "We couldn't do anything but play a control game and hope nobody fouled out," he recalls. They won five games and he hit the recruiting trail. His second year they won 10. Last year they came on late to win 14 and host a playoff game. This year, with hardened sophomores and juniors, he has signed his best class yet. He has 12 new players, six from the WPIAL, three from West Virginia, one from Georgia, and one each from Huntington and Elizabethtown, Pa. The other WPIAL recruits are from Mt. Lebanon, Ambridge, Beaver and Seton LaSalle.

"We have starters and reserves back at every position," Smith explains. "But to play the pressing, fast breaking, up tempo style we want, we need depth. So some of these freshmen will see playing time. It will be an extremely competitive environment, but there will be opportunities for Kaden and Isaiah to carve out a role. It will depend on who adapts fastest to a new system and new teammates and who works the hardest."

Smith (photo, left) played college basketball at Penn State Altoona, where he was a four year starter and is still the school's all time leader in steals and assists. He served as an assistant coach at Dickinson College and Carnegie Mellon before coming to Washington & Jefferson. "We started recruiting Kaden his junior year. Then, last Fall, Bill Sacco called me and said, 'Hey, we have this other guy you should also be looking at,' and we started coming to more games and watching Isaiah. We realized right away what a great fit both of them would be for our program. What I love about them is their versatility. Kaden can play on or off the ball. Isaiah is as good a rebounder as I've seen and can defend any position on the floor. On offense, he would be a valuable perimeter player, but coming off screens, he gives us the ability to create mismatch opportunities. I'm excited to start working with them."

It's the first time Smith has recruited two players off the same team to W & J as freshmen, but he does have players coming in this year who in high school played at Ambridge and Trinity (W.Va.) with teammates who are already at W & J.

He was also thrilled when Kaden was named Player of the Year and both players made All State. "It's always exciting to welcome recruits with this kind of recognition."

Harrison, meanwhile, can't wait to start working under Sirianni (photo, right). Sirianni played at Mt. Union (Ohio), where he was an All Conference wide receiver on conference and national championship teams. He was an assistant coach at Wilkes College and Ithaca College before returning to Mt. Union as wide receivers coach, where he helped his alma mater win two more national championships.

Since coming to W & J, Sirianni has become one of the NCAA's most successful coaches. He has been named conference coach of the year seven times and regional coach of the year twice. In 17 seasons, his teams have reached the postseason playoffs 14 times. He has become famous for developing quarterbacks, producing five Division III All American signal callers who were prolific passers, rolling up 40,000 yards and 400 touchdowns.

As a head coach he has a winning percentage of .818. During his 17 seasons W & J has won at least nine games 12 times, including three straight 10+ win years. Twice his teams have finished undefeated. His teams annually rank among the nation's best offenses, having set numerous records for TDs, passing yards, total yards, first downs, receptions and fewest turnovers.

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PIAA Suspends State Tournament

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has suspended the boys and girls state basketball tournaments until further notice.

The PIAA will reassess the situation in two weeks.

The drastic action, taken the first time in over 100 years of holding state tournaments, is in response to the rapidly spreading Coronavirus. Professional and college sports and other state high school sports are also being suspended.

Cornell was to play Bishop Carroll High School this Friday night at Hempfield in the state Elite Eight. If Cornell had won, it would have played Monday night in the state semifinals to determine who advanced to Hershey for the state championship game. With #1 Vincentian and #2 Elk County Catholic upset and out of the tournament, Cornell, ranked #7, is given a definite chance to make a run at the state championship.

Cornell Superintendant Aaron Thomas said he thought the PIAA would still try to hold the tournament, perhaps sometime in April.

One possibility is they could hold the games but not allow spectators. They might also test each player and coach for the Coronavirus before allowing them into the gyms.

But some schools are already closing entirely and announcing that extracurricular activities are also suspended. Whether most schools will close and whether basketball teams could continue to practice is unknown. This is a situation which has never occurred before and every day brings new developments.

 

 

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Raiders Skate Across Thin Ice, 53-44

Cornell was in deep trouble Tuesday night at Clarion University. The Raiders were playing far from home with a crowd decidedly favoring nearby Elk County Catholic. The officiating looked a bit suspect, too. The first seven fouls went against Cornell and starters Isaiah Langston and Jeavantae Kingwalden were saddled with two fouls each in the first quarter.

This meant Cornell had to battle the 6-5 and 6-4 Crusaders with no player taller than six feet, or else risk fouling Langston and Kingwalden out.

And the Raiders were making more errant passes than usual, lofting them out of bounds or having receivers zig when the passer expected them to zag.

Elk County Catholic feeds on situations like this. The Crusaders, ranked #2 in rhe state, and had lost only once (at Dubois) when several playees were sick with the flu. The patient Crusaders work the ball back and forth, reversing the floor and probing the defense until they get the shot they want. Opponents only average 46.3 points a game because they can't get their hands on the ball often enough to score more. ECC rarely makes mistakes. Its players spread the floor and wait for the defense to make a mistake or commit a foul.

Playing ECC is like playing in quicksand or, with two starters in foul trouble, like skating across thin ice.

Blaine Sams opened scoring with a corner three but ECC came back with a tip in and a layup to take the lead 4-3 at 4:21 in the first. The teams then alternated layups and the lead, with Kingwalden and Langston scoring two each to give Cornell an 11-8 edge at the break.

ECC definitely controlled the pace. They worked the ball for from 60-90 seconds each possession. Usually, it takes about that long for an opponent to make a mistake on defense, leaving someone open, misplaying a pick and roll so one of the ECC bigger players ends up guarded by an opposing guard, or committing a careless foul.

What ECC was not used to was Cornell's intensity on defense. Raiders were overplaying the passing lanes, doubleteaming shooters but getting back if they passed out of the trap. Crusader shooters could not get clear for good shots.

Sams hit another three to open the second quarter. Layups by Harrison and Kaden DiVito and a top three by DiVito offset two ECC free throws for a 21-10 Cornell lead with 3:31 til halftime.

 

But Langston picked up his third foul at 4:24 and Kingwalden his third at 2:50. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco had to alternate them from then on, with Drew Lopez (#24 in photo above) filling in for one or the other. Lopez, a junior, did a great job despite his lack of size.

A corner three by DiVito helped, but ECC kept hitting free throws. The halftime score was 24-17.

Langston picked up his fourth foul early in the third. But two Harrison threes and a layup and one three by DiVito plus a layup boosted Cornell to a 38-26 edge entering the fourth.

A Harrison three made it 41-26. Layups by Langston, Harrison and Kingwalden plus free throws by Sams and Langston kept the Raiders ahead of a rain of four Crusader threes.

They cut Cornell's lead to 48-41 with 1:02 on a shady move at the free throw line. An ECC guard not known for his free throw shooting stepped to the line and suddenly developed a nosebleed. A player off the bench was allowed to replace him and shoot his free throws. That player was one of ECC's best free throw shooters and made two. The player with the nosebleed returned to the game immediately after the free throws.

But Cornell hung on to win and advance to the State Elite Eight this Friday night.

Harrison led all scorers with 15 points, followed by DiVito with 14, Langston with 10, Sams with eight and Kingwalden with six.

Harrison led all rebounders with six. Kingwalden added five, Sams and DiVito four each, and Lopez and Langston (whose minutes were limited due to those fouls) two apiece.

Harrison had seven assists. DiVito added four, Kingwalden three, Sams two and Langston one.

Sams' two corner threes were critical in building Cornell's early lead, especially after he went scoreless in the WPIAL Championship gane. "I quit lifting weights for the last two weeks and I think it helped," he told reporters afterward. "My shot feels more natural again."

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco was all smiles after the game, telling reporters this was one of his all time favorite wins given ECC's #2 ranking, familiarity with the floor, huge home crowd, and the way his team overcame the adversity of Langston and Kingwalden being in early foul trouble.

Elk County Catholic Coach Aaron Straub thought Cornell's pressure defense was the difference. "We watched tapes. We knew what to expect. But we couldn't replicate that defense in practice. You can't imagine how intense they are until you're actually in the game. They were in our faces all night. And they never stop. They're very athletic and they just keep coming at you. No one up here (in north central Pennsylvania) plays that kind of defense."

The game was played in the beautiful newly updated Clarion University Gym. Since Cornell's girls played there two years ago, Clarion has done a multimillion dollar renovation and has basically a brand new facility. It has the best lighting of any gym in the state and three magnificent Diamond Vision display boards which allow for instant replays.

Cornell now faces Bishop Carroll of Ebensberg Friday night in the Quarterfinals at Hempfield Area High School in a doubleheader with Brothers Valley playing Bishop Canevin in the other game.

The upset of the tournament occurred when Brothers Valley (of Berlin) shocked Vincentian by 20 points. Brothers Valley was ranked #3 entering the game, but Vincentian was #1 and no one was thought to have the size to handle Vincentian's front line.

Brothers Valley Coach Tanner Prosser had noticed the tendency of Royal big men to power over defenders in the lane. WPIAL refs consistently gave Vincentian the benefit of the doubt and called blocking on the defenders. Prosser suspected that officials from the central part of the state would call the charge. He worked his players hard on taking those charges, being in position early, having their feet set and their hands high, and keeping their feet motionless until the offensive player ran over them and knocked them to the floor.

He was gambling on getting the calls. It worked. Vincentian's big men got in foul trouble early and eventually fouled out. When they resorted to three point shooting, their shots did not fall. At one point, Brothers Valley went on a 19-0 run and Vincentian never recovered.

Brothers Valley now plays Bishop Canevin, which defeated Cameron County Tuesday. The winner of the Cornell - Bishop Carroll game will play the Brothers Valley - Bishop Canevin game next Monday night in the Final Four. The winner of that game will play the winner of the East Thursday in Hershey for the State Championship. But first Cornell has to face Bishop Carroll. The Huskies show a lineup of 6-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and 6-2, but not all those players start and the others run 6-1 and shorter. 6-6 senior center Nolan Burke is the biggest threat. Burke averages 14 points and 12 rebounds a game. He led scoring in the Shade win with 16 points.

Bishop Carroll comes out of the District 6, the area around Altoona. Their17-9 record is misleading. In District 6 there are not as many Class A schools so many of Bishop Carroll's games are against 2A, 3A and even 4A opponents. Still, the Huskies needed a controversial foul call and three clutch free throws to defeat Shade. With two seconds to go, trailing 51-49, a Carroll player went up for a three. It missed but the official called a foul on the Shade defender. The Bishop Carroll player made all three free throws for the 52-51 win.

It's the second year in a row that Cornell has made the State Elite Eight. Last year, Vincentian knocked them out of the tournament with a 10 point win. Three of the remaining eight teams in the state are from public schools, two in the West and one in the East. Cornell has only reached the State Championship game once. The old Coraopolis High School reached it twice. The old Neville High School never reached it. But for most of the last 100 years, only the District winners advanced to the state playoffs, and a team only needed three wins to get to Hershey. Historically the state only had two classes, A and B, so winning the WPIAL was more difficult. For most of its existence, Coraopolis was in Class A with North Allegheny, Sharon, Uniontown, Farrell, McKeesport, Aliquippa, Midland., Charleroi and Newcastle.

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PIAA Sends Cornell To Clarion For ECC Game

The PIAA announced Sunday that Cornell must travel to Clarion University Tuesday for its game with Elk County Catholic in the State Tournament Sweet Sixteen.

In addition to Cornell having to make the two and a half hour trip to Elk County Catholic's back yard, it means the Raiders must play on a court they have never seen before while Elk County Catholic has played four games there within the last two weeks. The Crusaders played quarter finals, semifinals and finals there in the District 9 Tournament, which they won. They then defeated Imani there Tuesday night in the State Tournament.

Since the Cornell - Elk County Catholic game is at 7:30 as the second part of a doubleheader, it means the Raiders will be late getting back home early Wednesday morning. If they win, they then have to get rested and ready for a Friday night game at another distant location, probably at Johnstown. But they can't complain. Two other WPIAL schools were sent to Hershey and Harrisburg last Friday.

The PIAA normally tries to choose a site approximately halfway between the two schools. But there isn't a large gym close to halfway between Cory and Clarion.

Coraopolis is 115 miles from Clarion. St. Mary's, home of Elk County Catholic, is 45 miles from Clarion. The good news for Cornell fans is that they can get to Clarion by travelling two interstates, I-79 North and I-80 East. Clarion has plenty of restaurants fans can stop at if they arrive in time before the game, but those restaurants close early so will not be open after the game. The gym at Clarion is an older but good facility. Cornell's girls played there two years ago.

Elk County Catholic is ranked #2 in the state and has lost only one game. They have a lineup of 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Cornell is ranked #7 and its tallest player is 6-1

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Raiders Yawn Past Saltsburg, 73-29

It's been a long, hard season for Cornell, playing in the toughest section in the WPIAL, then battling through the playoffs. The Raiders were ready for a break. They got one Friday night against Saltsburg, The Trojans, a runnerup team from District Six (the area around Indiana, Pa.) were no match for Cornell's speed, quickness or shooting, and the game was over by halftime.

Like every team in the tournament, Saltsburg was taller than Cornell. But the Raiders outrebounded them. They also recovered their shooting eye, which had deserted them in the championship game at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.

Saltsburg hung in there for a quarter. Isaiah Langston opened scoring on a tip in and Zaire Harrison added a layup, but the Trojans used a layup and a top three to go ahead 5-4 at 6:12. However, that was their last lead.

"G" Kingwalden drained a corner three to regain the lead for Cornell at 7-5. Layups by Harrison and Kaden DiVito and another Langston tip in made it 13-5. Saltsburg kept trying, however, hitting a jumper and a side three to narrow it to 13-10. A top three by DiVito and layup by Langston pulled Cornell out to 18-10 before Saltsburg laid one in to trail 18-12 as the first quarter ended. Then a free throw cut it to 18-13 to open the second.

That was the end of that. Cornell buried the Trojans with a 25-0 run. It included three DiVito layups, three layups and a free throw by Harrison, a layup and free throws by Kingwalden, and a layup by Blaine Sams, two by Langston, and one by Michael J. Smith. Suddenly it was 43-13 at the half.

Most of those layups came off steals or rebounds and passes fired downcourt to streaking Raiders. The Trojans could not hit and Cornell was getting every rebound.

But some of the layups also came off drives slashing through Saltsburg's already set defense, which was not able to contain Cornell's passing and cutting. That's Sams in the photo above, driving through three defenders to get to the basket. DiVito in the photo bottom right is about to do the same. Harrison in the photo bottom left has faked a shot and is driving under the defender. Langston at left is soaring past yet another defender.

The second half was played under a "running clock" because of the huge Cornell lead. Both coaches substituted freely to give their reserves a chance to play in a State Tournament game.

The biggest moment came at 4:04 in the third quarter when Kaden DiVito was upended going high for a layup and crashed to the floor. At first it looked like he had come down on his wrist, but after being helped to his feet and to the bench he turned out to have only a cut lip. Once the blood was cleaned up and the lip treated, DiVito returned to the game briefly before all the starters were pulled.

Harrison led all scorers with 23 points. DiVito added 22, Kingwalden 12, Langston 10, Smith three and Sams and Drew Lopez two each.

Harrison and Langston each grabbed 10 rebounds. Sams added eight, DiVito seven, Kingwalden six, Lopez three and Smith one.

Lopez stole three passes. DiVito, Harrison and Kingwalden added two steals each and Sams one.

Harrison contributed nine assists, DiVito eight, Langston seven and Kingwalden four. But these figures are misleading. Most of these "assists" were long passes coming off rebounds and were to teammates streaking for the basket.

The game was played at Kiski Area High School. It had originally been scheduled for Fox Chapel High School, but was moved at the last minute. Many fans and even some media went to Fox Chapel not knowing of the change.

The win advances Cornell to the State Octafinals, i.e. the Sweet Sixteen. They will meet Elk County Catholic, the champion of District Nine (the area around Clarion). Elk County is just south of Kane in the Allegheny National Forest. Ridgeway is the county seat but Elk County Catholic is located in the village of St. Mary's.

Elk County Catholic is ranked second in the state. The Crusaders have only lost once all year, to arch rival Dubois. Their lineup includes 6-4 Mykey Incorminias, 6-4 Mason Mcallister, 6-2 Mark Kraus, 6-2 Jordan Deprator, 6-1 Leo Gregory and 6-1 Jack Bauer.

Elk County defeated Cameron County for the District 9 Championship, then defeated Imani Christian Friday night while Cornell was beating Saltsburg.

The computer favors #2 Elk County over #7 Cornell. For the Raiders to pull off the upset, not only will the "big three" of DiVito, Harrison and Langston need to have good shooting nights, but Sams and Kingwalden will have to contribute. Those two failed to score in the WPIAL title game at Pitt. Against Saltsburg Kingwalden did have 12 but Sams still only had two. When Sams and Kingwalden are draining threes from the corners, it spreads the defenses and opens driving lanes. Against the taller Crusaders, Cornell will also need all five starters plus Lopez and Smith crashing the boards.

The Cornell - Elk County game will be Tuesday at 6 pm at Clarion University Gym.

The winner of the Cornell-Elk County Catholic game will face the winner of the Shade - Bishop Carroll game. Shade defeated Nazareth Prep 63-56 at Johnstown Friday night.

The winner of that Cornell-ECC-Shade-BC bracket will go on to the West Region Finals (in effect, the State Tournament Semifinals). In the oher bracket, Bishop Canevin plays Cameron County Tuesday night while Vincentian plays Berlin Brothers Valley. Those two winners will play Friday night with the winner advancing to the West Region Finals.

The Vincentian - Berlin Brothers Valley game is seen as the biggest threat Vincentian faces in the West. Berlin Brothers Valley is ranked third in the state and has the size to deal with Vincentian.

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Tragedy Takes Jamestown Star, Affects 1A Playoffs

One of Pennsylvania's outstanding Class A basketball stars has died in his sleep and plunged his team and hometown into a week of mourning when they expected to be celebrating a District 10 Championship.

Darian Keyser, 6-6 center for Jamestown High School in northwestern Pennsylvania, averaged 19 points and 15 rebounds this year and has already signed a college basketball scholarship. He was also an outstanding baseball player, an honor student and a four time class president.

Because of Keyser (photo, right), Jamestown was considered a serious threat for the West Regional and PIAA State Championship. He was considered one of the few big men in the state able to take on Vincentian's 6-6 and 6-5 inside players.

The way the PIAA State Tournament brackets are set up, Vincentian and Jamestown were favored to reach the West Regional Semifinals, which are in effect the state quarter finals. Cornell is in the opposite bracket, and if the Raiders got that far would play the winner in the West Region Championship game, with the winner going on to Hershey for the State Championship.

Without Keyser, Jamestown's coaches and players chose to go ahead and play the District 10 Championship game, which they lost to a Commodore Perry team they had beaten badly twice during the regular season. Commodore Perry is not considered a threat in postseason play.

Keyser was not suffering from any known medical condition which would account for his unexpected death.

 

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Vincentian Closes Out Cornell, 63-51

Cornell ran into a double edged sword Thursday night at Pitt's Petersen Events Center in the WPIAL championship game.

One day earlier, administrators announced that Vincentian High School would close at the end of this semester. After recovering from the initial shock, players at the perennial basketball and baseball powerhouse vowed to win one last title for their school. Cornell thus faced a team on a mission, one riding an emotional wave.

At the same time, Cornell played one of its worst games of the year. Perhaps the players were intimidated or disoriented by the big arena. It was their first ever game there, while Vincentian has been in the finals four straight years, winning two and losing two. The Pete was no big deal for them.

Perhaps the game meant too much. After the semifinal win that sent them on to the Pete, Cornell players repeatedly spoke of how much it meant to them, how they had worked so long so hard for it, how it was a dream come true, how they had wished for it for years.

Perhaps it was the pressure of playing in the championship game, no matter where it was played. Vincentian was used to it and Cornell was not.

Perhaps it was the sight lines. Behind the baskets is nothing but thousands of seats going all the way to the very high ceiling, and the lights in the Center are unusually bright so the games can be televised. Shooting at a big college arena is quite different than it is in even the biggest high school gym.

Whatever the cause, Cornell never did play the game that got it there. None of the seniors could hit. They couldn't hit anything: threes, jumpers, dunks, free throws, layups.

The Raiders hit just 18 of 51 shots for 35%. This was Cornell's lowest shooting percentage of the year. Usually they hit 58-62%, and they shot 68% in their home victory over Vincentian. The Raiders were also unable to hit from beyond the arc. They hit only six all night, four by Zaire Harrison (photo below right) and one each by Kaden DiVito (photo left) and Isaiah Langston (photo above). The usually deadly Blaine Sams, who is especially reliable from the right corner, did not score. Jeavantae Kingwalden, who normally sinks several from the sides or up top, did not score.

This was not an accident. "They beat us over at their place with that hot shooting," Vincentian Coach Tim Tyree told reporters afterward. "We were determined they were not going to do it again. We spent almost all our game preparation on defense. We've been playing against these same guys two and three times a year for four years and we had plenty of film. We knew where they liked to shoot from. We made sure those spots were not available."

The Royals also targeted DiVito. "He's such a dynamo. He's all over the floor, passing, dribbling, shooting. We knew we had to contain him." DiVito, the WPIAL's leading scorer all season with a 21 points per game average and some games in the high 20s and even 30s, finished this night with eight. He didn't score a single field goal in the first half. Cornell lost by 12. The 13 points the Raiders were missing from DiVito might have made the difference. But Vincentian had taller players guarding him and usually double teaming him. There was nothing he could do.

And all those missed shots went to Vincentian. The Raiders totaled only 14 rebounds, their lowest in four years. The much taller Royals had a huge advantage : 6-6 to 6-1, 6-5 to 6-0, etc. They outrebounded Cornell 49-14.

And the officials didn't help. By the end of the first quarter, four Cornell players had two fouls, most of them charging fouls as Royals cut off their drives to the basket. This kept them from playing the kind of intense defense they usually use to overcome that height disadvantage. Alex Griggs for Vincentian also got in early foul trouble with three, but the Royals have a deep bench, and replaced him with someone just as good.

Despite all these troubles, Cornell battled all the way. A Harrison layup, top three and putback, and Langston three, kept the Raiders close at 12-10 entering the second quarter. A spurt to open the second may have decided the game, as Vincentian scored on a putback, two jump shots and two free throws to pull ahead 20-11. A Langston jump shot and free three cut it to 20-13, but the Royals responded with three layups and two free throws to reach 28 and put Cornell in a deep hole. From that point on, the Raiders were playing catch up, and, unable to hit consistently, they never could close the gap.

But they still trailed by only nine at the half, 34-25. As explosive as they've been all season, if they could begin hitting, there was still hope.

Then, to open the third, Kingwalden picked up his third and fourth fouls and went to the bench. Drew Lopez (photo, left), replaced him, but was even shorter. Lopez snuck in for two layups but Vincentian began going inside and dunking over top of him.

At the end of three it was 52-38.

Cornell's stats were grim. Harrison led scoring with 22. Langston added 17, DiVito eight and Lopez four. Harrison grabbed eight rebounds and Langston six.

The only bright spot was that Kentucky Coach John Calipari flew up to watch the game. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco coached Calipari at Moon.

Cornell's season is not over. As WPIAL runnerup, The Raiders move on to the State Tournament, where they play Saltsburg next Friday at 6 pm at Fox Chapel. The winner will play the Elk County Catholic - Imani winner the following Tuesday. If Cornell wins and Nazareth Prep wins as predicted, they would meet Friday, March 13. In the other bracket, Vincentian will play Berlin Brothers Valley in the second round, with the winner favored to reach the West Regional finals (state semifinals).

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Cornell Seniors Make It To "The Pete" 68-47

This group of Cornell seniors has dreamed of playing in Pitt's Petersen Events Center, which they call "The Pete," since they were in the seventh grade. Making it to The Pete means playing in the WPIAL Championship Game.

Three years in a row Cornell has been stopped short. As freshmen, Imani did it. As sophomores, Vincentian did it. Last year, Nazareth beat them in the semis at Ambridge. Each year, the team that stopped Cornell went on to win the WPIAL.

This was their final chance. And Monday night, before a full house at West Allegheny's spacious gym, the Raiders pulled away in the fourth quarter to down Bishop Canevin 68-47 and nail down that precious berth at The Pete.

It wasn't easy. Canevin, with the advantage in sise and depth, tried to nullify Cornell's speed and quickness by slowing the game down.

The Crusaders had perfected this strategy while winning Section 2A with a 12-0 record. For the season they had held their opponents to less than 50 points a game.

And for a half it looked like a winning strategy against Cornell. Canevin led 3-2, 9-5, and 14-12 in the first quarter. Thanks to free throws and a layup by Kaden DiVito, a top three by Isaiah Langston, a layup by Zaire Harrison and threes from the side and corner by Blaine Sams, the Raiders managed to finish the period ahead 15-14. But only because that corner three by Sams dropped through at the buzzer. And Langston had to leave the game with his second foul at the 4:29 mark.

Canevin went back up 19-17, tied it at 24-24 and led 27-26 before Cornell squeezed out a 32-29 halftime edge. The Raiders got their second quarter points from a Jeavante Kingwalden jump shot and free throws, DiVito's top three, follow and free throws, and, once he returned to the floor half way through the quarter, Langston's three layups and three free throws.

It was in the third quarter that Cornell slowly took control of the game, although it was a struggle as Langston picked up his third foul just one minute in and Sams his third at 4:25. Nevertheless, Langston and DiVito hit layups, Harrison a side three and Kingwalden a foul line jump shot (photo bottom right) for a 41-31 advantage at 4:00. DiVito hit another layup and Langston came in with a miniute to go and sank a top three at the buzzer to lift Cornell to 46-37.

Then the Raiders exploded to open the 4th. Harrison hit threes from the top and side, Langston added one from on top, and Harrison sank two free throws and suddenly it was 57-39. Sams drew his fourth foul at 5:34 but the game was in hand.

Now the tables were turned. Canevin, who had wanted to slow the game down, now had to play catchup against one of the toughest outside weaves in the WPIAL. As the Crusaders had to come out and chase Cornell, suddenly the lane was open, and Kingwalden was able to lay two in and Langston lay one in and dunk one. As an exclamation point, Sams (#15 at right) drained a corner three.

Langston (#3 above) led all scorers with 23. DiVito (#2 below left) and Harrison (#1 top right) had 13 each. Kingwalden added 10 and Sams nine. DiVito led rebounders with eight. Harrison grabbd seven and Langston and Kingwalden four each. DiVito contributed six assists and Harrison five. Harrison, DiVito, Langston and Kingwalden each stole the ball twice.

Numerous college scouts, mostly from Division II schools, were in the stands. Both teams included players not only accomplished on the court, but with good grades and high test scores.

It took a long time for players, fans and parents to clear the court after the game. "Goin To The Pete!" they kept chanting. This is Cornell's first trip to the finals since 2012, when the current seniors were in fourth grade. Back in the mid 20th Century, when the entire WPIAL Tournament was held at the old Pitt Field House, playing on that floor was not as big a deal. But now that only the finals are held there, it has taken on legendary status. Back in the Cornell locker room, players danced around in glee.

"This really means a lot to me," DiVito admitted. "I've wanted this so bad for so long. It's like a dream come true."

Langston nodded. "This is such an amazing feeling," he grinned. "We've worked so hard for so long for this."

Coach Bill Sacco was all smiles. "I'm so proud of them. They deserve it. They've been a great bunch to coach."

Cornell plays Vincentian at 7 pm Thursday at Pitt for the WPIAL title. The two split two regular season games. Vincentian is ranked #1 in the state. But both teams will go on to the State Tournament.

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Raiders Scorch Imani For Semifinal Berth

The Northgate Gym has flames painted on each corner and Cornell took that as a cue Thursday night as the Raiders scorched Imani 84-65 in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

The Raiders were only slight favorites. Imani is an inner city Pittsburgh academy with a lineup of tall, athletic players. But they led only once, on an opening jump shot and rebound putback.

Then Cornell buried them on Zaire Harrison's two layups and a corner three, Blaine Sams' top three and Kaden DiVito's layup. Suddenly it was 12-4 at 4:38.

Imani never quit. A layup, side three, baseline jumper and three free throws kept them in the game, but for Cornell DiVito (photo below) put back a rebound and added a layup, Jeavonte Kingwalden (photo bottom right) hit a side three, Isaiah Langston (photo right) laid one in, and Harrison (dribbling in photo below right) sank a side three and two free throws as the Raiders led 26-14 after one.

Langston opened the second quarter with a soaring tip in to double the score at 28-14. Langston dominated the quarter with a slashing layup, 15 foot jump shot, free throw and spectacular dunk. Added to that were a Harrison jumper, DiVito steal and layup and free throw. But it was a wild quarter, with steals, tieups, missed shots and free throws and wild passes by both teams. Still, the Raiders went to halftime leading 40-26.

They put the game away early in the third, with a top three by Harrison and corner three by DiVito for a 46-26 lead. Harrison picked up his third foul and had to be replaced by Drew Lopez (bottom left). But the rout continued, with a corner three and layup by Langston, three straight layups off steals and a jumper by DiVito, a corner three by Sams, and a side three by Lopez. That made it 65-46 entering the fourth.

Harrison came back in at this point, and Cornell went to its trademark outside weave.

Sams drained two corner threes, Kingwalden added another corner three, and Langston, Harrison and Kingwalden hit a series of layups off steals and passes downcourt after defensive rebounds.

Cornell Coach Bill Sacco sent in the reserves to finish out the game.

Harrison led all scorers with 23 points. DiVito added 20, Langston 18, Sams 12, Lopez three and Kingwalden eight.

Langston led in rebounding with eight. Harrison, DiVito and Kingwalden each grabbed six, and Sams added two.

Harrison and DiVito each contributed six assists. Langston and Kingwalden had three each, and Sams one.

DiVito, Langston and Sams each stole three Imani passes. Kingwalden stole two and Harrison one.

The win sends Cornell to the WPIAL semifinals Monday night where they will face Bishop Canevin, which edged Union 40-39 on two last second free throws. Union had tried to slow the game down and it almost succeeded.

Whether Imani's season is over depends on Cornell. If the Raiders win Monday night and make the championship game, Imani will receive a "trailer" bid to the State Tournament. If Cornell loses, Imani is done.

This is so because, as the state's largest and most powerful region, the WPIAL receives six slots in the Class A State Tournament. The other, much smaller, regions receive one or two. So the WPIAL awards bids to the four semifinalists. Then, the two quarterfinal losers to the champion and runnerup also receive bids. Of course, the all important seeds in the State Tournament depend on the WPIAL finish. The two "trailers" receive the low seeds, playing the two top non-WPIAL teams. The WPIAL champion and runnerup play runners up from other regions, and the semifinal losers play champions from other regions.

In the other Class A quarterfinals, Nazareth Prep edged Eden Christian 69-57 in a game much closer than the score suggests. Eden was within four, five and six points for most of the fourth quarter but never could close the gap.

Vincentian destroyed Geibel Catholic 99-51. So Vincentian will play Nazareth in the other semifinal Monday night.

So of the eight teams in the quarterfinals, only two were publlic schools : Cornell and Union.

And of those eight teams, five were from Cornell's Section 1A, proving once again that the section is by far the strongest in the WPIAL.

Of the four teams in the semifinals, three are from Section 1A and Union came within one point, two free throws and five seconds of giving the section a four team sweep. Of the four teams in the semifinals, Cornell is the only public school.

A Cornell win Monday night would fulfill a dream for these seniors, who have been starting since they were freshmen and made the playoffs every year but never made it to the championship game at Pitt's Petersen Events Center, which players refer to as "The Pete."

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Cornell Draws Opposite Vincentian,Nazareth

Cornell's dreams came true.

The WPIAL awarded the Raiders the #2 seed in the Class A Playoffs that begin this week. Vincentian received the #1 seed, with Bishop Canevin #3 and Nazareth #4. That gave Cornell a first round bye. The Raiders won't play until next Thursday, February 20, when they'll face the winner of the Imani Christian vs. West Greene game. If Cornell wins that quarterfinal game, it will advance to the semifinals and play the winner of the Bishop Canevin - Union - Clairton quarterfinal.

Most importantly, Vincentian and Nazareth are in the opposite bracket and assuming they win their quarterfinal games will meet in the other semifinal. Vincentian meets the winner of the Leechburg-Geibel game. Nazareth will play Clairton in the octafinal, and if it wins will face the Eden Christian - Greensburg Central Catholic winner.

Cornell's draw is not easy. West Greene has two 6-3s and one 6-4 player, Imani has two 6-5 players, and Canevin has 6-4 Dom Elliott. The undersized Raiders struggle with taller teams. But in a very difficult field, they received the best draw possible.

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Isaiah Langston Passes 1000 Points

Isaiah Langston (#3 in photo at right) scored 29 points Monday night in an exhibition game against inner city Neighborhood Academy to give him a four year total of 1003.

Langston becomes the third Cornell senior to pass the 1000 point mark. Kaden DiVito and Zaire Harrison also passed that threshold this season.

Cornell won 71-33. The game was never close. The Raiders led 26-6 after one quarter and 43-12 at halftime. They went on to a 64-25 third quarter edge. Coach Bill Sacco sent in the reserves in the fourth quarter.

Divito added 12 points.

Sacco scheduled the game as a fill in to keep the team sharp during the WPIAL dead period while teams wait for the playoff announement tonight.

The WPIAL has announced pairings for the upcoming Class A Playoffs. Cornell, along with Vincentian and Bishop Canevin, has received a first round bye. Vincentian was given the #1 seed, Cornell #2 and Canevin #3.

West Greene and Imani Christian will play in a first round game Thursday night. Cornell will play the winner Thursday night, February 20, at a site yet to be announced.

If Cornell wins that quarterfinal game, it will play the winner of the Canevin - Union - Monessen game in the semifinals.

Nazareth received the #4 seed. If the seeds hold, it will play Vincentian in the opposite semifinal. Cornell could thus play either Vincentian or Nazareth at the University of Pittsburgh Petersen Events Center for the WPIAL championship.

Cornell is now 16-6 on the season, 12-2 in Section 1A.

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Cornell Seniors Bid Farewell With Epic Win

Cornell's seniors, who have been starting since they were freshmen and have achieved the greatest four year run by the same players in school history, gave their fans one of the greatest wins in school history Friday night by upsetting the state's #1 team, Vincentian, 66-57.

Cornell did it by flipping the script from road losses to Vincentian and Nazareth. In those games against much taller opponents, Cornell could not hit, got in early foul trouble, had to back off on defense because of the fouls, and was unable to slow the game down and work for open shots.

Friday night, every Cornell player hit a high percentage, especially from outside. Cornell drained six threes in the first half alone, which forced Vincentian to come out to the perimeter and guard the shooters. Once out there, it was obvious Cornell was quicker and faster and had more explosive first steps.

Free of foul trouble, Cornell also cranked up its pressure defense. Many of its layups resulted from steals and long passes downcourt. The Raiders also went to war on the boards as the officials let both teams play. Fans of both teams were unhappy with several noncalls, but even though several Raiders ended up on the floor with no whistle, overall it worked to Cornell's advantage

With Royals defenders aggressively guarding the threes, the Raiders could fake the shot and burst past. Since all Royals had been drawn out, the lane was open for drives. Isiah Langston and Kaden DiVito alone scored seven layups on these moves.

Scrambling to retreat back inside and help stop these drives, Vincentians then left the corners open, and Zaire Harrison or Langston could drive to the lane and fire passes to DiVito or Blaine Sams for open threes. Sams drained five.

The first quarter was a battle for the lead. Kaden DiVito scored the first basket on a layup and was fouled, as seen in the photo at right. He sank the free throw and the Raiders led 3-0. They would never lose that lead. Vincentian hit a corner three to tie it at 3-3. Isaiah Langston and Divito scored layups and DiVito sank a corner three but Vincentian responded with three straight layups to stay with Cornell 10-9 at 3:37.

DiVito scored two more layups and Langston hit two free throws but Vincentian made two jump shots and a top three. Sams (dribbling in photo below right) drained a side three but a Royal layup left Cornell defending a shaky 19-18 lead at the break.

The Raiders won the game in the second quarter. A 15 foot Langston jump shot, a layup and corner three by DiVito put Cornell up 27-23.

That was when Langston ((#3 in photo at left) tipped, tipped, tipped and finally scored on a tipin and was fouled. He made the free throw for a 30-23 lead at 4:18. Vincentian scored a layup to cut it to 30-25, but Langston sank a corner three, Sams hit a side three and a corner three, and DiVito laid one in for a 41-25 halftime edge. It was the first time all year the Royals had trailed at the half.

They opened the third quarter with two follows, a free throw and a layup but Sams hit a corner three, Zaire Harrison laid one in, and Divito sank a free throw to hold the lead 47-32 at 4:51.

Vincentian scored three layups as the quarter wound down, but Sams sank anorher corner three to hold the lead at 50-38.

But the key to the third quarter was that Vincentian only had seven possessions. Cornell was controlling the pace of the game as they patiently worked for the shots they wanted. Vincentian was scoring every time they had the ball. They just didn't have it enough. And since Cornell had a 12-16 point lead, they were in no hurry.

The Raider patience continued in the fourth. They held the ball for the first 1:10 before DiVito sank a corner three for 53-39. Vincentian quickly responded with a corner three.

Cornell held it for another minute but missed. Vincentian missed, too, but scored on a tipin to make it 53-44 with 5:27.

Cornell worked it around for another minute before Langston laid one in on a slashing drive. Vincentian came down and was called for charging. Cornell held it for another minute before Langston was fouled and sank both free throws for 57-44 at 3:30.

The Royals laid one in and hit a free throw to cut it to 57-47 at 2:42. Vincentian called time out and went to a full court press. The crowd rose to its feet.

Langston was fouled and sank two free throws for 59-47 at 2:09. A Vincentian layup cut it back to 59-49 at 1:17. Harrison slashed in for a layup and was fouled. His free throw made it 62-49 at 1:13. Vincentian sank a corner three and a layup for 62-54 with 51 seconds.

Langston broke loose for another spectacular drive, was fouled, and sank two free throws. A top three cut Cornell's lead to seven at 64-57 with 24 seconds to go. But DiVito and Sams hit free throws for the final score.

A celebration erupted at the buzzer as players hugged each other and Coach Bill Sacco, and fans streamed out of the stands to join in.

The win avenged a 92-61 loss at Vincentian back in January and quelled talk about Vincentian being unbeatable by any Class A team.

Sams, with five of five threes, 15 points, pressure defense, clutch ballhandling and crisp, pinpoint passing against Vincentian's very physical defense, played the finest game of his career.

Although Harrison was held to one of his career low point outputs, he actually played one of his best games. His defense, ballhandling and rebounding were outstanding.

Cornell entered the game ranked third in the WPIAL behind Vincentian and Bishop Canevin and ahead of Nazareth and Greensburg Central Catholic. The win might move the Raiders up to second, ahead of Canevin. This would be critical, because it would improve their draw in the upcoming playoffs. The WPIAL will announce those pairings at a meeting Tuesday night.

Vincentian thus ends the season in first place in Section 1A with a 13-1 record. Cornell is second at 12-2. Nazareth is third at 11-3. Eden and Union are tied for fourth at 7-7 and will both advance to the playoffs.

The WPIAL field this year includes Bishop Canevin, Monessen, Geibel Catholic, West Greene, Greensburg Central Catholic, Imani, Clairton and Leechburg, as well as Vincentian, Cornell, Nazareth, Union and Eden. The opening playoff games are expected to be next Friday or Saturday.

Langston turned in another outstanding performance with 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He hit nine of nine free throws. DiVito added 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals. Kingwalden had three points and five steals.

As a section runnerup, Cornell should draw a third place team, which would pit it against Geibel or Clairton. As the current #3 team in the WPIAL, Cornell should be in the same bracket as Canevin and opposite Vincentian and Nazareth. That would be critical, since it would mean the Raiders could reach the finals at Pitt before meeting either Vincentian or Nazareth for a third time.

Cornell plays two exhibition games in the "dead period" between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs. Raider Coach Bill Sacco likes these games because they keep his team sharp. Cornell plays Central Valley at Lincoln Park at 5 pm Sunday and Neighborhood Academy at home at 7 pm Monday. Central Valley is the merger of Monaca and Center. The Warriors are 12-7 this year, 7-5 in their 4A section. They did not qualify for the playoffs. Quaker Valley, Blackhawk, Newcastle and Ambridge took the four playoff spots for that section. Neighborhood Academy is a private college prep school in inner city Pittburgh. Students are required to participate in sports to fulfill their physical education credits. Neighborhood is not a WPIAL member but plays a limited number of games against WPIAL schools. It is 0-4 this year, having lost to Winchester Thurston 81-38, Bentworth 65-44, Geibel 73-61, and Aquinas 74-65. There is no JV game.

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Jayvees End Season With A Loss, 69-47

Powerful Vincentian rolled over Cornell's outmanned Junior Varsity team Friday night 69-47 to end their season at 6-9.

The Raiders hung in there for a half. MJ Smith hit three layups, a corner three and a side three, while Hunter Smith added a layup, to trail only 16-14 after one.

In the second, layups by Drew Lopez, Hunter Wegley and Patrick Scott and a free throw by Scott kept the Raiders within striking distance 26-21 at halftime.

Wegley drained a midrange jumper to cut it to 26-23 to open the third, but at that point the Raiders totally collapsed. Vincentian went to a full court press and stole the ball seven straight times. They fired the ball upcourt for layups every time, and added a follow, free throw and one more layup to lead 50-26 at the quarter break.

Cornell actually outscored Vincentian 21-19 in the fourth quarter but it was too little too late. Smith hit a layup, side three, top three and free throws. Lopez added a side three, a layup, a free throw.

But the Raiders could not stop Vincentian from scoring. The Royals kept taking the ball inside and laying it in over Cornell defenders frantically waving their arms. They scored nine of these plus one free throw.

Smith led all scorers with 27. Lopez had eight, Hunter Smith and Hunter Wegley each had four, Scott had three and Tristine Carlisle had one. Carmine D'Alesandro did not score.

With the five varsity starters all graduating, this JV team will be Cornell's varsity next season. It's going to take massive offseason work for Cornell to make the WPIAL and State playoffs again.

Unless someone experiences a dramatic growth spurt or a tall transfer shows up, this will be the shortest starting lineup in the WPIAL. The current varsity also carries that distinction, but it makes up for it with great shooting and spectacular leaping skill. Except for only Smith and Lopez, this is not a high scoring group and Smith is its only strong rebounder. It becomes essential that Craig Pulford recover from his back injury and Caleb Dunn get his academics in order.

This year's eighth graders struggled. They'll need two years at the JV level before any of them are ready for the varsity. The school's next strong team is in the seventh grade. In a league of 2A, 3A and 4A schools, they won all season.

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Langston Leads Cornell Over Quigley 77-62

With Cornell, Vincentian and Nazareth graduating most of their starting lineups, Quigley sees itself as a rising power in Section 1A. The Spartans have size and a trio of shooters. Tuesday night, in their final home game of the year, they dreamed of making a statement against traditional power Cornell. Those underclassmen sank 12 threes and crashed the boards. And they hung with Cornell for a while, leading for the first four minutes and tying 16-16 to end the first quarter. Isaiah Langston (#3 in photo at right) was having none of that. The 6-2 senior exploded for 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists and six steals to lead Cornell to a 77-62 win and set up a showdown with #1Vincentian Friday night.

Quigley started off with three threes, two from the corner and one from the side, two layups, a jumper from beside the lane, and a free throw. Langston alone scored nine with a top three, two layups and two free throws for nine points. Kaden DiVito (# 2 in photo bottom right) added a side three and two layups as the teams went to the second quarter 16-16.

DiVito was staggered for a few minutes by a hard fall to the floor after soaring high for a layup. He was so shaken that the referee stopped the game to ask if he was alright. But he stayed in the game, and the Raiders began picking up steals off their press. Langston hauled down four rebounds and scored 10 points on two side threes, a layup and two free throws. DiVito added eight with two layups, two free throws and a set shot from the side. Zaire Harrison (#1 in photo bottom left) hit two layups and a free throw, Blaine Sams (#15 in photos below and bottom right) added a corner three, and Cornell went to halftime leading 42-27.

The Raiders put the game away with nine points to open the third, as Harrison hit a top three and two layups and Langston added two free throws. A Quigley layup and follow were too little too late with the score suddenly 51-31 at the 4:13 mark. DiVito, who was fouled almost every time he touched the ball, hit three free throws and a layup and Langston finished the quarter with a side three and two layups to make it 63-44.

Fouls were mounting at this point but it didn't matter. Harrison spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench and only scored on one follow, but Langston hit a layuip and a two from just inside the line, DiVito added four free throws, and Sams a side three. Cornell spent the last three minutes working on its control game, which it figures to need Friday against Vincentian and in the playoffs.

Langston's 32 points led everyone. DiVito added 23 points and six assists. Harrison had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Sams' two threes gave him six points and Je'avante Kingwalden had two points and six rebounds.

The win left Cornell second in Section 1A at 11-2 with Vincentian first at 13-0. Nazareth defeated Union Tuesday 54-40 and Vincentian beat Eden 84-43, so Nazareth is in third at 10-3. Union hosts Western Beaver Friday as Eden goes to Nazareth, so barring a huge upset Union and Eden will tie for fourth place. How the WPIAL will pick that fourth playoff team is uncertain. This all senior Cornell team, which is concluding the greatest four year run in school history, plays its final home game Friday night.

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Depleted Jayvees Crushed By Quigley 53-20

Cornell's Junior Varsity is in the final week of its season and is not finishing well. Caleb Dunn is ineligible due to grades. Drew Lopez was held out for missing practice. Craig Pulford is out with a back injury. That takes away most of their rebounding, scoring and ballhandling.

Quigley revealed just how vulnerable the depleted Raiders are Tuesday nighr when they handed them a 53-20 beat down. The game was never close. Quigley led 14-7, 30-11 and 35-15 at the quarter stops.

There weren't many bright spots for Cornell. Michael J. Smith (#33, in photo at right), led them with nine points and 10 rebounds. Scott Patterson and Hunter Smith (#30 in photo below left) did most of the ball handling. Carmine D'Alesandro (#14 in photo below right), despite being the smallest player on the floor for either team, provided scoring, passing and defense. Hunter Wegley (#32 in background in photo bottom right) and Tristine Carlisle hung in there but were guarded by taller Spartans and had a hard time stopping those same taller opponents on defense. The only two Cornell threes of the night were by D'Alesandro and Smith.

Behind Smith, D'Alesandro added five points, Carlisle had four and Wegley two.

The Raiders could not hit. Part of that was the size disadvantage, as they had trouble getting shots off over taller defenders, and when they did they had to rush it or shoot a higher arc. But they also missed layups and free throws. They were badly outrebounded, 38-17. And many of their passes were too slow and were intercepted by Quigley defenders.

The loss dropped the Jayvees to 6-8 with one game remaining. Their unravelling season is especially worrisome because Cornell graduates five seniors and this group will become the varsity as of April 1. Hopefully Pulford, at 6-2, will recover from that back injury and develop into a competent center, and MJ Smith and Dunn will be able to help him on the boards. But they need a strong Summer in the weight room and at Summer Camp to compete with varsities from Vincentian, Nazareth, Union and a rising Quigley.

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Raiders Pull Away From Union Late, 67-45

The WPIAL's top four scorers were on the floor at the same time Friday night at Cornell, so fans expected a real shootout. And that's what they got.

#1 Kaden DiVito, #2 Matt Stanley of Union, #3 Isaiah Langston and #4 Zaire Harrison were all in action as Union tried to upset the Raiders and avenge one of its rare home losses.

Cornell had defeated Union 56-48 on January 7th. But Union had two players out with injuries for that game and now they were both back. The Scotties also had motivation. Union was tied with Eden Christian for fourth place and needed this win over Cornell to reach the postseason.

Nick Pasquarello, 6-2 senior (#20 in the photos), was a force on the boards as usual. The Scotties made it a very physical game. They controlled the pace, working the ball around, reversing the floor again and again until they got exactly the shots they wanted and then making them. They made that clear on their very first possession, when they held the ball for over a minute before sinking a corner three. Three layups and a corner two just inside the line gave Union 100% shooting for the first quarter. Two DiVito layups (#2 below), one each by Harrison (pink shoes below right) and Langston, and a corner three by Blaine Sams tied the score at 11-11 at the quarter break.

Cornell opened the second with a corner three by DiVito, a layup by Harrison and a tipin by Langston (#3 at right) for an 18-11 lead at 6:13. Two layups and a baseline jumper cut that to 18-17, but Langston hit a layup, a corner two and a foul line jump shot while Harrison added a free throw to pull the Raiders back out to 25-17 at 1:41. A Union layup cut it to 25-19 but Harrison found Langston with a lob pass for a dunk and DiVito sank a free throw for a 28-19 halftime lead.

Union opened the third with threes from the corner, side and top. Harrison hit a baseline jumper and two free throws to keep Cornell up 32-28 at 5:35. A Jeavante Kingwalden layup and Langston corner three increased that to 37-28 but two Union corner threes cut it back to 37-34 at 4:02.

By this point the game had become extremely physical. Cornell finished the third with a surge on layups by DiVito, Harrison, and Langston, two free throws by Harrison, and a dunk by Langston on a lob pass from Harrison. The one layup by Langston was a spectacular drive from midcourt. Union's only response was two layups. The quarter ended 48-38.

Union opened the fourth with a tipin and two free throws to narrow it to 48-42 before Cornell exploded. Langston scored on two spectacular dunks and a free throw, Harrison broke through for three twisting layups, DiVito scored on one layup and three free throws, and Sams drained a side three. That put Cornell up 67-42 and Coach Bill Sacco pulled his starters. The reserves did not score, but Union sank only one more corner three for the finsl 67-45 score.

Langston led both scoring and rebounding with 22 poinrs and 10 boards. Harrison added 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. DiVito had 17 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. Sams had six points. Kingwalden had two.

The win guaranteed Cornell a playoff spot. The Raiders are in second place at 10-2 with games next week at Quigley and home against Vincentian, which is first at 12-0. Behind Cornell are Nazareth at 9-3, Eden at 7-5 and Union at 6-6. Union plays Nazareth and Western Beaver next week. Eden plays both Vincentian and Nazareth. Presumably, Union and Eden will end up tied at 7-7. They split their two games, so the WPIAL will have to break the tie to choose which one goes to the playoffs.

Union Coach Mark Stanley thought his team gave a good effort. "I warned the boys coming in that Cornell was capable of 10-15 point runs. We wanted to get a lead and slow it way down, but we never could get ahead. Cornell just has those three guys able to score at any time from anywhere on the floor. I thought we wore down by late in the third quarter. Playing against Cornell is exhausting because of their in your face defense and run and gun offense. You can keep up for a while, but eventually it gets to you. I thought we did a good job working for the shots we wanted and hitting them, but once we got tired those shots quit falling. Cornell is hard to beat on this floor."

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Cornell Jayvees Lose To Union, 50-40

Cornell's Junior Varsity dropped to 6-7 on the season as it lost to Union 50-40 Friday night.

They led for the first four minutes on layups by Drew Lopez (#24 below right) and M. J. Smith and a jump shot from the lane by Lopez. But threes from the corner and side and two layups put Union ahead and the Raiders never caught them. It was 16-11 after the first and 26-16 at halftime. The third quarter score was 39-28.

The closest Cornell came was in the fourth quarter when Caleb Potts Dunn (in the corner about to receive the pass in the photo below) rebounded and put it back up to bring the Raiders to within six at 40-34. But then Union ran off eight straight points on layups and free throws.

Lopez and Patrick Scott (#22 dribbling at right and with ball below left) led all scorees with 11 each. M. J. Smith added 10, Dunn six and Hunter Smith four.

Other members of the JV team are Carmine D'Alesandro, Hunter Wegley and Tristen Carlisle. The Jayvees end their season next week with games at Quigley Tuesday and home against Vincentian Friday.

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WPIAL Announces 2020 Cornell FB Schedule

The WPIAL has announced 2020 football schedules and Cornell ends up with two new nonconference opponents.

The Raiders will open with Mohawk and play Jefferson Morgan a week later.

Then they will play seven straight conference games : Northgate, Shenango, Union, Burgettstown, Rochester, Fort Cherry and Sacred Heart.

Coach Ed Dawson and/or Athletic Director have the option of adding one more game, in the so called "zero week." That game would be a week before Mohawk. Or Dawson could choose to play a second scrimmage and only play seven actual games. He has done this the past four years.

Mohawk is a Class AA school which finished last year 1-6 in their conference and 2-8 overall. Their two wins were over Ellwood City and Summit.

Jefferson-Morgan is a Class A school which finished last year 3-4 in their conference and 3-7 overall. Their three wins were over Mapletown, Avella and Bentworth.

Cornell graduates most of its starters from this year's conference champions and WPIAL semifinalists, the best team in school history. But Dawson returns several skill position players and several linemen.

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Cornell Holds Off Eden Christian, 70-62

Cornell held off Eden Christian 70-62 Tuesday night to tighten its hold on second place in Section 1A and set up two final week showdowns with Union and Vincentian. The game was close throughout. Eden Christian, which is a relatively new school that has only been competing in the WPIAL several years, has its best team in history. The Mt. Nebo school is tied with Union for fourth place in the section. One of them will qualify for the WPIAL playoffs. So, with only two weeks to go, Eden is fighting for every win, and this was a home game.

Even worse, this Eden team is exactly the kind of team that has been giving Cornell trouble. Like Vincentian and Nazareth, Eden has its "twin towers" in 6-4 Drew Lipinski and 6-4 Ryan Aiken, plus three other starters at 6-1. The Warriors usually control the boards, and like to take the ball inside and score over shorter opponents. Cornell battled to a 13-9 first quarter lead, but Eden out scored the Raiders 18-17 in the second so the halftime edge was only 30-27. Cornell probably won the game in the third quarter, when it totalled 20 points to Eden's 16 for a 50-43 lead. Eden narrowed the lead several times in the fourth but the Raiders managed to pull back ahead to tally another 20 while holding Eden to 19. Eden's Elijah Manges led all scorers with 21. Lipinski and Tom Medure added 13. For Cornell, Zaire Harrison led with 19. Kaden DiVito (#2 in photo at right) added 17 and Isaiah Langston had 11.

The win left Cornell 9-2 in the Section with three games to go. Vincentian, which beat Western Beaver 90-39 Tuesday night, stands alone in first at 11-0. Nazareth, which won 76-44 at Quigley, is third at 8-3. Union, which rolled over Rochester 56-78, and Eden are tied for fourth at 6-5.Cornell faces a strong challenge Friday night at home against Union. The Raiders then play Sewickley in a Saturday showcase at Quaker Valley, travel to Quigley Tuesday, then close out the regular season next Friday at home against Vincentian.

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Cornell Youth Baseball Signups Begin

Signups have begun for the 2020 Cornell Youth Baseball Association.

Cornell this year will be competing in the Southwest Pittsburgh Baseball League. Teams in the league at this time include Crafton, Beechview, Sheraden, Brighton Heights, Mt. Washington, Westwood, Carrick, Sto-Rox, Avalon and Bellevue. There may be teams join or withdraw between now and the season opening. Kirk Jessup is the Commissioner. Cornell will again play its home games at Ronnie Bliwas Field.

The CYBA offers teams at the TBall, Coach Pitch, Minor, Little and Pony League levels. Fees are $50, $60, $70, $80 and $100 for the respective levels. $10 discounts are available for families registering two or more siblings, for returning CYBA players, and for Cornell youth football players. Any player can only count one discount.

Parents can sign players up at www.tinyurl.com/cornellyouthbaseball or in person at the Coraopolis Memorial Library from 6-7 every Wednesday and 10 am - noon every Saturday.

The Association has obtained the use of an indoor facility at Cornell High School so will be able to begin practices regardless of weather. Coaches will be able to work on conditioning, fundamentals, pitching, batting and fielding skills for a month before the opening game.

Both girls and boys are welcome. Youth baseball is considered the best possible preparation for girls planning to play softball at the high school level. Football players are also welcome. Youth baseball season ends before football practices begin.

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Raiders Regain Winning Ways At WB, 82-38

After a disastrous week of two road losses, Cornell regained its winning ways Tuesday night at Western Beaver with an 82-38 rout.

The game was over in the first quarter when the Raiders grabbed a 20-10 lead. Then they shifted into high gear and outscored the Golden Beavers 30-9 in the second, for a 50-19 halftime edge. At the end of the third it was 75-27. Cornell Coach Bill Sacco played his reserves in the fourth.

Kaden DiVito (#2 in photo at right) led all scorers with 28. With a 22.6 average, DiVito ranks 15th among WPIAL scorers from all classes. Zaire Harrison added 21 and Isaiah Langston 12. Langston averages 19.7 and Harrison averages 16.4. So despite being in a well balanced offense, all three are among the WPIAL's top 25 scorers of all classes.

Elsewhere in Section 1A, Vincentian beat Nazareth 74-72, the second time this season Vincentian has beaten the Saints by one basket. That leaves Vincentian all alone in first place with a 9-0 record, Cornell in second at 7-2 and Nazareth third at 6-3.

Eden Christian defeated Rochester 74-59. Union rolled over Quigley 61-44. This leaves Eden and Union tied for fourth at 5-4. Unfortunately, Eden has more games remaining against the top three teams so is likely to pick up enough losses to give Union sole possession of fourth and the accompanying WPIAL postseason bid.

Cornell still faces a rugged road stretch in the unbalanced schedule the WPIAL computer created for it. The Raiders travel to Rochester this Friday, and Eden next Tuesday. That will conclude five consecutive road games. Then, on Friday (January 31) Cornell finally returns home for a big game with Union. Tuesday (Feb. 4) the Raiders go to Quigley and then close out the regular season with Vincentian Friday Feb. 7.

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WPIAL FB Realignment Alters Cornell Schedule

The WPIAL football realignment for the next two year cycle will significantly change Cornell's schedule.

Gone from the Raider schedule are Sto-Rox, Laurel and Bishop Canevin. Added will be Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and Shenango.

Bishop Canevin has been moved to a different Class A conference. Sto-Ros and Laurel have been moved up to Class 2A.

Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and Shenango have all been moved down from Class 2A.

So Cornell's conference schedule will now include Northgate, Union, Rochester, Sacred Heart, Burgettstown, Fort Cherry and Shenango.

Last season, Sto-Rox handed Cornell its only regular season loss.

Rochester and Sacred Heart are traditional WPIAL powers.

The WPIAL realigns schools every two years, which represents a home-and-away cycle. Its computer creates the schedules, including the nonconference games.

There will also be a change in the nonconference schedule. Coaches requested, and the WPIAL agreed, to move all nonconference games to the beginning of the season, so that teams have two or three games to polish their offenses and defenses before beginning conference play.

The WPIAL struggled with this year's realignment. Coaches and administrators have complained loudly for the last two years about the loss of traditional rivals, the long distances teams have to travel, and the declining attendance because fans don't care about the teams placed in their conference.

So the WPIAL summoned all the coaches and administrators to a special meeting at which they presented an alternate proposal. They would go back to neighborhood rivals regardless of school size. This would have had Cornell playing Avonworth, Carlynton, Quaker Valley and Montour, in addition to OLSH, Sto-Rox, Northgate and Rochester. But, at the end of the regular season, conference play would be irrelevant. The WPIAL computer would power rank all teams and select the top eight in each class to advance to the playoffs.

Coaches decided they didn't like this format, either. They voted to keep conferences within enrollment classes.

For most of the 20th Century, Burgettstown was a traditional Coraopolis and Cornell rival in both football and basketball. Fort Cherry has been a frequent basketball opponent and Shenango has off and on been a football conference opponent. As Cornell declined in enrollment and Burgettstown grew slightly, they stopped playing each other. But now Burgettstown is also losing enrollment, so it is once again close to Cornell's size.

Cornell is coming off its greatest season in school history and Coach Ed Dawson will be in a massive rebuilding year. However, he retains several key skill players and several key linemen so has a nucleus to build around. OLSH will be strong again and favored to win the conference. Rochester suffered through its rebuilding year last year and will be strong again. But losing Sto-Rox from the schedule will help, since Cornell has not won a Sto-Rox game in modern memory. Losing traditionally strong Laurel will also help. Struggling Canevin was a guaranteed win, so losing it from the schedule hurts.

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Cornell Grade Schoolers Lay The Foundation

Cornell High School Girls Basketball is struggling. The team is in the WPIAL's toughest section and is not doing well. And the reason why is no secret. Cornell has never had a comprehensive elementary school program. It does not bring girls up to the high school with game experience or years of work on fundamentals.

This year they're trying to change that. Aaron Melius and Bethsny Griffith volunteered to coach a 4th grade and under, and a 6th grade and under team. They have third graders acting as reserves on the 4th grade team, and 5th graders acting as reserves on the 6th grade team. (Mark Bolla coaches the high school team.)

On the sixth grade team, he starts Zoey Kaczmarek (#62 in photo at right), Bethany Shugis, Alivia Walsh, McKenna Griffith and Courtney Gutt. Reserves are Kylie Arnot, Areanna Camardese, Ramsey Shaw, Peyton Thomas and Gianna Gracyk

On the fourth grade he starts Caitlyn Gibson, Maleah Turner, Samantha Melius, Clara Joranger and Reese Roebels.

Their basic routine is to practice two days a week and play one game a week. However, the gym isn't always available, so sometimes they have to adapt. They might play two games one week and none the next.

"This gym is a problem," he admits. "We only have this one gym. But we have both girls and boys high school teams, middle school teams, and grade school teams all needing to use it. One problem that causes is if the high school teams use it right after school, and the middle school teams use it next, then by the time we get our turn it's too late in the evening to ask 10-12 year old girls to be staying out every night.

Another problem is the schedule. "We want to play a 10 game schedule. But none of the other schools our size bother with grade school girls. The only schools which do are the big 5A schools like Canon McMillan, Montour, Chartiers Valley and West Allegheny. If we play them, with so many more girls to draw from, they have girls much taller and more athletic. So we have a hard time winning. Now, we could find schools our size with teams, but they're a long ways away. We'd be driving up on the other side of Pittsburgh or down below Washington or up by Newcastle every week. Not all of our Parents can do that, what with jobs and other family responsibilities."

He's hoping to find a few Class A Tournaments for late February. He'd organize one and host it at Cornell, but the gym;'s not available.

So, temporarily Cornell is a Class A school playing in a 5A conference.

It's tough to persuade grade school girls to invest the time in basketball. Cheerleading, Girl Scouts, piano lessons and homework take precedene.

"But if we don't get them involved now, we never will. Right now, we have really good athletes in high school on the cheerleding team. But not playing basketball. So we have to get them now."

Melius played high school basketball at Portage, in the center of the state. After serving in the military, he played college basketball in his mid 20s.

"For years I resisted the temptation to coach because it's so time consuming. But here they had no one else, so it came down to either I did it or there was no team for my daughter to play on."

Samantha Melius is the coach's daughter. She already has a reputation as a fine youth baseball player, as does McKenna Griffith. Samantha has played on Coach Pitch teams, McKenna on Minor League teams.

Melius would like to work with the girls during the off season if he can persuade them to put in the time and if he can get the gym.

"We have a lot of fundamentals work to do," he pointed out. "If we have to compete with these bigger schools, we have to become better shots, better ballhandlers, better defenders and better rebounders. Plus, the girls have to spend a lot of time in the gym if they're going to develop the kind of instincts you need to play in midle school or high school."

But in the first year of the program he has 29 girls on the roster. "If we can keep them, we'll be OK in a few years."

Kevin Edwards

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Nazareth Dims Lights On Cornell, 65-48

The Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club, where for some unexplained reason Nazareth Prep plays its home games, has a fine full length floor. But on a good evening it has only eight lights overhead. Friday night, three of those were burned out. So playing there was rather like playing on an outdoor court under a streetlight. There were shadows. (These photos have been artificially brightened through Photoshop.)

And the darkness went beyond lighting. Cornell played its worst game of the season, losing 65-48 to a poor shooting team it had beaten 76-54 just a month ago.

The difference was that this time Coach Nehemiah Brazil told his Saints to shoot NOTHING outside the lane. All Nazareth shots were layups, dunks, follows, lobs and free throws.

For the first quarter and half of rhe second, it looked like Cornell would overcome this strategy. Isaiah Langston hit two layups and a foul line jump shot, Kaden DiVito made a corner three, a tip in, and a layup, and Giavante Kingwalden added a layup for a slim 17-16 lead. But it was a costly quarter. Zaire Harrison (shooting in bottom photo) was already in foul trouble with two.

In the second Drew Lopez (with ball in bottom photo) opened with a layup, Langston followed with a corner three and a dunk, DiVito hit a layup and a free throw, and Harrison added a top three. That made it 29-16 with 4:54 til halftime. And that was when Cornell's game fell apart.

"We're up 13," Coach Bill Sacco told his team.

"We're in control. From here on, run your weave and keep working the ball until you get either a layup or short jump shot or a wide open three. Do not hurry your shots and do not take anything but your best shots."

No one listened. The Raiders kept firing too quickly and did not wait for their favorite shots. The much taller Saints got every rebound, came down, and fed the ball to the big men inside. Nazareth scored on three layups, a jump shot (from in the lane just below the foul circle), a follow and two free throws to cut the halftime lead to 31-28. Meanwhile, Cornell was accumulatimg fouls. Harrison had gone back in and promptly picked up his third. Other Raiders had two. And relations with the officials were becoming testy. The larger, beefier Saints were making it a physical game and Cornell was being called for fouls. Nazareth made more free throws (17) than Cornell shot (14), and Cornell only hit five of 14. Nazareth players hit 17 of 31. So the Saints shot twice as many as Cornell.

The third quarter was a disaster for Cornell. The only points they could produce were a Harrison layup and free throw and a Lopez layup. Meanwhile, taking it inside on every possession, Nazareth scored 18 on four layups, three follows and four free throws. The Saints shot poorly. They took three or four shots to finally make a simple layup. But they kept grabbing rebound after rebound over the much shorter Raiders.

And the fouls kept mounting. Sacco played reserves Drew Lopez, Caleb Dunn (#12 in photo above) and MJ Smith to spell his foul plagued starters, but only Lopez scored and he got the only rebound of the reserves.

The atmosphere grew more hostile as the Saint lead rose. Ranked 4th to Cornell's 2nd, they taunted Cornell after each made basket, clapping in their faces and chanting "over rated." When Raiders took the bait and responded, they were whistled for warnings or Technical fouls. Blaine Sams (#15 at right) was called for two technicals and will have to sit out a game next week.

Cornell launched its final rally to start the fourth. Down 46-36, Harrison hit a corner three and layup, Sams a side three and Langston a layup to cut it to two with 5:44 left. But those were the last field goals Cornell scored. The Saints ran off four follows, two layups, a five foot jumper and five free throws for 19 points while the Raiders were limited to one free throw each by Harrison and DiVito.

For the second game this week Cornell was outrebounded badly, 50-29. Much of that disparity was due to Nazareth shooting so badly. Each possession, they would rebound three or four times trying to score on layups, tipins or follows. Langston led Cornell with 11, followed by DiVito with seven, Kingwalden with four, Harrison and Sams with three each, and Lopez with one.

Langston and Harrison led scoring with 14 each. DiVito added 10, Lopez four, and Kingwalden and Sams three each.

The game was especially worrisome because it revealed a Cornell inflexibility that could prove fatal in the playoffs. This late in the season, everybody has everybody scouted and has plenty of game film. Coach Brazil had clearly drilled his defenses on Cornell's offensive movements and their favorite shooting spots. Every time a Cornell player moved to one of their spots, a defender was there waiting. Brazil used a matchup zone out of a 1-3-1 alignment to reach Cornell's perimeter shooters, while collapsing on anyone trying to drive. Notice in the photo at left, and the two above, how any Cornell player moving toward the basket is immediately surrounded by three defenders. It's an effective defense, but it opens up other players IF the players are patient and willing to keep reversing the floor and finding the open man, or driving and kicking out.

For example, in rhe photo above (taken from the catwalk high above the floor) Harrison has three taller defenders collapsed on him, but Kingwalden (#4) is wide open at the free throw line for an easy jump shot. The secret is to keep moving the ball and not forcing shots.

That rebounding problem can also be addressed by aggressive boxing out, even if it comes down to face blocking by some players while teammates go for the rebound. Against timber tall teams like Vincentian and Nazareth, it must be addressed.

But Cornell's seniors, who have been playing together since the 4th grade, seem reluctant to run any new offensive movements or bother with boxing out. They have compiled the most successful four year run in school history and believe in their system. Unfortunately the game is changing. They face coaches who have recruited all star teams and are using sophisticated strategies against them. Sacco and his staff have been around for 40 years and know the game, but the players have to listen.

Cornell will face Vincentian once more in the regular season and will almost certainly face both Nazareth and Vincentian in the postseason, in the WPIAL and the PIAA. Last year Nazareth defeated Cornell in the semifinals to keep them from the Petersen Events Center, then Vincentian knocked Cornell out of the PIAA. Two years ago, Vincentian stopped them in the semifinals.

The loss left Cornell and Nazareth tied for second in the Section with 6-2 records, behind 8-0 Vincentian. Cornell will lose its #2 ranking in the WPIAL, probably to be replaced by Bishop Canevin.

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Vincentian Size, Marksmanship Too Much

Cornell's #2 ranked Raiders gave it all they had, but there's a reason Vincentian is ranked #1 in the WPIAL and the entire state.

A 6-6 player playing hard is just too much for a 6-0 player playing hard. Cornell could create no advantage Tuesday night in Vincentian's rat's nest gym with its three rows of metal bleachers and fans sitting with their feet on the playing surface. The Royals won in a rout, 92-61, although the score was only 84-55 when Cornell Coach Bill Sacco called time out and sent in the reserves with 3:16 remaining.

Cornell opened up in its usual aggressive in your face defense and made a game of it for a while. Kaden DiVito (#2 in photo below) put a rebound back in and scored two free throws, Zaire Harrison (#1 in photo at right and below)) scored on a top three, two layups and a free throw, and Isaiah Langston (bottom photo) scored on a layup. That put Cornell up 14-11 with 3:28 left in the first quarter and Vincentian Coach Shelton Carney called time.

He changed his lineup, replacing a few of his taller players with 5-10 and 5-11 players to match Cornell's quickness. And he ordered his players to open fire from the perimeter. The result was stunning. The Royals hit three straight side threes and buried SIX threes in all, two from on top and four from the sides, en route to a 27-21 first quarter lead. Harrison's layup and top three and Giavante Kingwalden's jump shot could not keep up with this barrage.

The problem Cornell faced was that they had 6-6 players shooting over their outstretched arms and draining threes. There was nothing they could do.

But they kept fighting. Vincentian's long distance shooting cooled to begin the second, and with those shooters out on the perimeter Cornell was able to grab a few rebounds and fire them downcourt. Harrison, Langston and DiVito scored three straight layups to cut that gap. Again, Carney called time and changed strategy. This time, he told his team to take it inside. Again, Cornell with its height disadvantage was unable to stop the Royals.

Layups, a dunk and a foul line jump shot pushed the lead back out to 41-29 at 2:43, as all Cornell could produce was a DiVito layup.

Then things got worse. Harrison and Langston picked up their second fouls and Kingwalden his third, so Sacco had to ease off his aggressive defense. Blaine Sams grabbed a rebound and put it back and Harrison hit a layup at the buzzer to keep Cornell's flickering hopes alive, 45-33 at the half.

But Vincentian and the officials quickly extinguished those hopes in the third. The Royals scored the first nine points to go up 54-33. While this was happening, Langston picked up his third foul only 40 seconds in, and Kingwalden got his fourth at 6:32 and fouled out at 6:11.

Cornell fans weren't happy with the officials, but whenever two or more 6-6 players are wrestling with 5-10 and 5-11 players for the ball, either under the boards or out on the floor, and every player is physically fit and strong, inevitably the smaller players end up on the floor, against the wall or in the first rows of the stands, just like a bear shaking off a dog. That was how the game progressed, with DiVito, Harrison and Sams taking the brunt of it, but Langston getting knocked around under the basket (see photo below). In one almost comical sequence, Vincentian double teamed Harrison on their full court press. They wrestled the ball away and flung Harrison into the stands. He was still freeing himself from being half under the bleachers and half tangled up in two spectators while down at the other end of the floor Cornell was playing 4-on-5 defense until he got there. There was no call by the official standing three feet away.

Cornell couldn't get its shots off. Vincentian defenders swatted shots away, blocked them, or simply grabbed them out of the air and went the other way. Even when Raiders did get a shot off, it was hurried and had to be altered, usually with a higher arc to get over those taller defenders. So the usual high Cornell shooting percentages were way down.

Somehow, DiVito managed to get off three layups, Harrison soared high for a spectacular runner (photo, left), Langston sank three free throws, and Drew Lopez added a layup. But it was too little too late, as the third quarter score ballooned to 69-47.

Those 24 points came on nine layups, all over top of Cornell defenders who had position, plus a side three and three free throws.

The fourth opened with a Vincentian dunk and three layups and Harrison picking up his fourth foul. That made it 77-47 with 5:17.

With 3:16 to go and the score 84-55 Sacco pulled his starters to avoid injuries.

DiVito led Cornell with 21 points. Harrison added 20, Langston nine, MJ Smith three, and Sams, Lopez and Kingwalden two.

It was the worst Cornell rebounding in three seasons. The Raiders were outrebounded 44-17. Langston had nine, Harrison four, DiVito three and Sams one.

DiVito had five steals. Langston had four assists and three blocks.

The win left Vincentian alone in first place in Section 1A with a 7-0 record. Cornell is second at 6-1. Nazareth, which defeated Eden 75-54 Tuesday, is third at 5-2. Eden is fourth at 4-3.

Vincentian remains #1 in the WPIAL and #1 in Pennsylvania. The computer considers them the odds on favorite to win the state championship.

Cornell gets the Royals at home the last Friday of the regular season. Presumably, Vincentian will not shoot quite as well, especially from the three point line. But the Twin Towers of Ethan Embleton and Angelo Reeves are still 6-6 and Cornell will still have to figure a way to handle them on the boards and keep them from just scoring over top of defenders,

First, however, Cornell has another challenge. It has a game Friday night against Nazareth. The Nazareth game is a classic example of how bizarre competition in WPIAL Class A has become. The WPIAL has ruled that Nazareth's home court is so bad as to be unusable. So the Saints have to find another site for their home games. They've played some at Robert Morris, then moved to the Hill District YMCA. That arrangement ended. Nazareth has now scheduled Friday's game at the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club along the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. So Cornell and Nazareth, located three miles apart across a bridge from each other, are both travelling 18 miles into the city to play. Parking is not a problem at the Lawrenceville site, there being two large lots adjacent. This new facility was built in 2000 to replace the old 1920 building. The problem will be in seating. The gym was not built with the idea of hosting games. There is room for 100 spectators. The JV game begins at 5:30. Cornell fans are urged to arrive early in order to get one of those 100 seats, or indeed to get in at all. Although Cornell defeated Nazareth earlier this year at Cornell, the Saints are defending WPIAL champions and only lost to Vincentian by three two weeks ago. The Saints badly outrebounded Cornell in their earlier matchup.

Robin Gilligan

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Raiders Destroy Quigley, 86-35

Cornell's Raiders warmed up for their showdown with Vincentian with an 86-35 Friday night home rout of Quigley.

Quigley stayed with Cornell for a quarter, 23-17. Then Cornell shifted into gear and outscored the visitors 24-9 in the second for a 47-26 lead at halftime. It gor worse for Quigley, as Cornell rolled 20-3 in the third and 19-6 in the fourth.

Zaire Harrison and Kaden DiVito led all scorers with 22 points each. Isaiah Langston added 15.

The win kept Cornell ranked second in the WPIAL and tied for first in Section 1A with Vincentian with a 6-0 record.

Vincentian defeated Eden Christian 82-62 Friday night, as Nazareth beat Union 73-53 and Western Beaver rolled over winless Rochester 86-48.

So now it's on to the Tuesday night civil war with Vincentian at the Royals' McKnight Road crackerbox gym.

Vincentian starts the tallest lineup in Pennsylvania and is ranked #1 in the state, as well as the WPIAL. The shortest Royal starter is 6-5. Its Twin Towers, Angelo Reeves and Ethan Embleton, both 6-6, both average 20+ points and 10+ rebounds.

Ironically, Cornell now finds itself hating to go into Vincentian with its cramped floor and playing conditions, officially recognized as the worst remaining gym in the WPIAL. For years, the old Coraopolis High School had the worst gym in the WPIAL and opponents always hated coming in. Now Cornell has a fine gym and has to go play in a bad one.

Because of the home floor advantage, Vincentian will be favored. But Cornell gets the Royals back home in February.