CORY ISENBERG| Class A Portage making big impact - The Tribune-Democrat: Columns

CORY ISENBERG| Class A Portage making big impact

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Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012 11:39 pm

Last week’s winter weather played havoc with the holiday hoops tournaments.

There were plenty of interruptions because of weather conditions - welcome to western Pennsylvania in the winter time - but a variety of winners emerged over the past couple days.

The Portage girls are a Class A school that is playing big at this early point of the season.

The Mustangs successfully battled their way through the field at the Ligonier Valley Tournament, downing Class AAAA Latrobe in the opening round and the Class AAA Rams to win the title. MVP Olivia McCabe is a tall threat down low for Portage and guard Emily Chobany has done a good job of decision making thus far getting the ball to McCabe when she is open or taking the shot herself.

But what has really helped the Mustangs to their 8-0 record is the roles that the other members of the squad have played, including a tough, scrappy defense.

In the preseason, Portage was not picked as the top team in the WestPAC, but it has definitely gotten the other coaches’ attention.

The Mustangs will get their next challenge on Wednesday when they travel to Berlin Brothersvalley to face the low-key Mountaineers, who quietly claimed the championship in their tournament, downing St. John’s Prep of Frederick, Md. in the title game. Berlin is still not at full strength, but has played well despite the absence of its low-post player, Shelby Cougenour.

Other girls winners were Forest Hills at the Boswell Jaycees Tournament, Westmont Hilltop at the Punxsutawney Tournament and Cambria Heights at its tournament.

On the boys side, Blacklick Valley continues its impressive march.

The Vikings are 7-0 and won the championship of the Berlin Tournament. Blacklick’s Dalton Cesarz and Johnny Sheesley combined for 60 of the Vikings’ 72 points in the title game against HOPE for Hyndman. Cesarz, who earned MVP honors, scored 72 points in the two-night tournament while Sheesley, who was selected the Most Outstanding Player, had 41 points.

The Vikings face some tough opponents including Rockwood, Ferndale, Conemaugh Valley and Conemaugh Township before going to Shade to take on the Panthers in late January.

Other boys tournament winners included Richland at its own tournament with a big victory over Tussey Mountain; Chestnut Ridge over Ferndale in the Windber Rotary Tournament; and, Cambria Heights in a thrilling double overtime win over Northern Cambria at its tournament.

Two tournaments are set to wrapup today after being postponed on Saturday.

The County Seat Tournament in Ebensburg features cross-town rivals Central Cambria and Bishop Carroll in the boys title game set to tipoff at 1:30 p.m. Ironically, the Laurel Highlands schedule has the Red Devils at the Huskies gym on Thursday.

Also today at Central High School in Martinsburg, the Central Cambria girls will face Tyrone in the consolation game at 1 p.m.

To play or not to play: Coaches always have a variety of reasons for playing or not playing in holiday tournaments.

Somerset boys coach Scott Close took a somewhat different path.

The Golden Eagles played three games in Wise, Va., finishing with a 1-2 mark and are 5-3 overall.

“We have faced some quality teams with some top-notch athletes down here,” Close said. “We also have faced some adversity and we are learning a lot about ourselves. It should help us as we prepare for a tough Laurel Highlands schedule.”

Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.