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Raiders Given #2 Seed, First Round Bye
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.

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.

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."

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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.

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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.