Two first-year head coaches who led their respective teams successful seasons will lead the boys all-stars in the Ameri-Serv Senior Hoops Showcase.
A pair of veteran coaches will front the girls all-stars during the seventh annual event set for Sunday, April 6 at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center.
“This being my first year, to be asked to coach in this game is really special,” said Windber’s Jude Leonardis, who will coach the South boys team in the 3 p.m. contest. “You see the talent in the area. to see them come together and play as teammates is also special.”
Leonardis led Windber to a 19-6 season, a significant improvement for a Ramblers program that had won a combined 25 games the three previous seasons. Leonardis, who played on Windber’s 1987 PIAA state runner-up team, hopes the Ramblers picked up momentum to continue on a winning path.
At Bishop McCort, Jerry Murphy replaced popular and highly successful coach Pat Hollern, who left to accept a position in Florida last summer. Murphy, who played on McCort’s 1985 PIAA state runner-up squad, kept the Crushers on the right track with a 16-8 record and LHAC runner-up performance.
“To be part of something that’s an all-star setting, you get to be around the best players in the area,” Murphy said. “You get to be part of showcasing their talents. That’s a big deal. Sometimes a coach never gets asked to do this type of thing ever. I’m lucky enough to get to do this in my first year.”
Westmont Hilltop’s Jodi Hillegass will lead the North girls in the 1 p.m. for the second time. Hillegass, who led Westmont to an 18-4 record and LHAC title, coached the North to a 71-59 win in the 2012 Showcase.
“It’s always an honor to be able to coach all the girls you’ve been coaching against for years,” said Hillegass, who has a 230-72 record in 11 seasons at Hilltop. “For all of us to come together for one last hurrah in the season is important. It’s great that they have the opportunity.
“You pull them together. You know their strengths. You give them an opportunity to do what they want to do and play with who they want to play with. It’s fun, but nobody plays to lose. You still want to go out with a victory.”
Shade’s Andy Muha led the Panthers to a 22-5 record and a berth in the PIAA Class A playoffs, where they advanced to the second round. It was only the second time in Shade history that that girls team made it to the Sweet 16, and the first time since 1988.
“One of the things as a coach or player is you want to win the last high school basketball game you play or coach,” said Muha, who has a 110-87 record in eight seasons at Shade. “I told my kids the other night when we lost that there is only one school in each classification that wins it’s last game, and that’s the state champ.
“I coach to win every game no matter what it is,” he added. “Hopefully we’ll have fun. We’ll have a practice or two and approach it as we’re going to try to win our last basketball game.”
Rosters for the boys’ and girls’ North and South rosters will be announced this week.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.