Multiple Somerset County rivalries were at least temporarily pushed aside last week as the South girls squad gathered at Shade High School.
Some of the top players from Berlin Brothersvalley, Conemaugh Township, Shade and Windber joined forces along with standouts from United and Ligonier Valley as part of the seventh annual AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase.
“It’s kind of strange because we were ‘enemies’ for so long and now we’re teammates,” said Windber’s Annalee Tokarsky, a 5-foot-7 guard for the South. “But it’s cool. All of the players are really nice, and we’re really enjoying this. It’s all for fun and there is no pressure.
“The friendship comes immediately. A lot of us are athletes that play a lot of different sports. A lot of them play softball and I am on the track team. We see each other a lot throughout the year.”
The South girls will play their North counterparts at 1 p.m. today at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center. The boys game will complete the all-star doubleheader at 3 p.m.
“I like the fact that they pick up on the stuff so quickly,” said Shade coach Andy Muha, who will lead the South girls. “Most of them have seen everything before. If we can get the people in the right spot and adjust, we’ll be OK. We have people who can shoot. We have some 1,000-point scorers. Some of my 1,000-point scorers are people who like to play inside, and that’s a bonus.”
United’s Eden Bloom, coming off an MVP performance in last week’s Altoona Mirror Classic, was the third-highest all-time scorer in her school’s history with 1,222 points. Bloom is capable of hitting the outside shot, as she did while scoring the first six points of last week’s all-star event, and had another hot stretch with nine third-quarter points. She was part of a United team that advanced to the District 6 Class A quarterfinals.
“It’s really going to be a lot of fun,” said St. Vincent College-bound Bloom. “This is another way to end the season playing with a lot of different girls. I’m really excited to play again after not playing for a few weeks. Now I’ve had two games in about a week.”
Berlin Brothersvalley four-year letterwinner Erica Craig scored more than 1,000 points and is among a group of four Mountaineers on the South roster. Shelby Coughenour, who will play volleyball at Clarion, is a 5-11 forward, and 5-3 Gina Trulick and 5-6 Aleesa Fieg are Berlin guards.
“I love basketball,” Fieg said. “To be able to end my high school career in this game with my teammates is a big accomplishment for me. It’s really special. We played throughout the season against a lot of these players. We’re still best friends. It’s nice to finally be able to play with them.
“I’ve been playing basketball since fifth or sixth grade,” Fieg said. “Now it’s finally over and that’s sad. We’ll have one last time on the court. It’s all or nothing.”
Conemaugh Township’s 5-4 guard Megan Boyer and 5-10 center-forward Kayla Luprek will play one final game together, as well as Shade’s 5-6 forward Brittany Berkey and 5-6 guard-forward Alexis Meck. Windber’s 5-6 guard Steph Ponczek and Ligonier Valley’s 5-8 guard Taylor Rudnik complete the lineup.
“This is the last game and it’s awesome to play with a group of girls like this one,” Luprek said. “I’ve known many of them my whole life, and it’s amazing to play one last game with them.
“You always have one or two great players on your team,” she added. “Now, we’re all equal talent. You can learn from them. It was really easy to make friends.”
Meck and Berkey will close their scholastic careers while playing one final game with their Panthers coach.
“He’s been my coach since sixth grade,” Meck said. “I’m going to miss him.”
Meck finished her career with 649 rebounds, and Berkey had 601 boards. Both played key roles on Shade’s District 5 Class A runner-up team.
“This is a huge event,” Meck said. “From playing in the (District 5) all-star game last week to playing again this week with all these girls, it’s a great experience. We played against them and they were our competition but now they’re my teammates.
“We have so many rebounders. We have so many shooters,” Meck said. “We have it all. If we all work together, which we are, we’ll be a good team.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.