CRESSON - The seventh annual Mirror Classic basketball games brought in top high school senior basketball players from far and wide, but no one came as far as Courtney Kaup.
She traveled to Mount Aloysius College all the way from Vermont.
"It was a good opportunity to get back to the area,'' said Kaup, one of four honorary captains for the game along with Ben Bithell, Sam Pollino and Ken Horoho, Jr. "I come back about three or four times a year depending on different events and family activities. This seemed like a good reason to come back and revisit my roots.''
Kaup was an all-state point guard and two-time PIAA Class AAAA champion at Altoona Area High School in the mid-1990s before moving on to become George Mason University's all-time assist leader.
Kaup doesn't play basketball anymore, though.
"I do endurance sports now,'' Kaup said. "It's beautiful up there. I'm outside riding, running, skiing, being active, doing the things I couldn't do for about 10 years. I do IronMans [triathlons], marathons. I like the discipline and structure. It's the same structure that I had growing up.''
Friday's girls game reunited Kaup with her good friend and former Altoona teammate, Deanna Jubeck. Jubeck, now the head coach at Hollidaysburg, was handling the Blair County girls team this week,
"It's very exciting. I haven't seen her in several years,'' Kaup said. "She has a love for the game, following in the family footsteps. Her dad was a great coach. I keep tabs on her and Jill Bartley [Helsel], who coaches the Altoona girls.''
Pollino was the girls MVP of the inaugural game in 2006, scoring 20 in a 90-79 Central PA win.
"Being back here in the environment, seeing the girls, I'm like, 'Was it really six years ago?''' Pollino said. "I remember all the fun and all the intensity of the game, and we really wanted to win.
"I think it's great that this game recognizes the girls' accomplishments and really show how great of athletes are in the different areas.''
Blair's top scorer
Bithell set the all-time Blair County high school boys basketball scoring record in 1995 after his four-year career at Central High School.
He still holds the record of 2,106 points 17 years later.
"I probably feel more proud about it now,'' said Bithell, the honorary captain for the Blair County boys team. "Back then, you just thought you were going to keep scoring.''
Bithell was a 6-foot-6 towering presence on the Dragons' two District 6 championship teams in the early 1990s. Now, he's not quite as tall.
"I've shrunk an inch,'' Bithell said. "I had back surgery and lost an inch.''
Bithell is employed at Roaring Spring Paper Products and coaches football in the Tussey Mountain program. He said he plays basketball occasionally, but mostly with his three sons and daughter.
"I'm enjoying coaching football,'' he said, "but I'd like to get back into basketball, too.''
There's no dunk contest built into the Mirror Classic, so the boys teams made their own.
In the fourth quarter, with Central PA having the game well in hand, both squads gave any player that wanted to - and some that didn't - a chance to wow the crowd with their ability to play above the rim.
About half of the Central PA players threw at least one down, as did Steve Franco and Brandon Myers from Blair County. The unofficial winner, according to 5-foot-7 Bishop Carroll point guard Ryan Lauer, was self-evident, though: It was Johnstown's Dwight Andrews.
"No question,'' Lauer said. "Throwing down some of his dunks, I don't think anyone around this area has his skill level. It was just an honor to watch him.''
Andrews put down a couple of alley-oops from Trojan teammate Mark Watson earlier in the game, then got a reverse jam and a tradition tomahawk among five jams in the fourth period.
"It was competitive, but, for the most part, I wanted to have fun and give the fans a show,'' Andrews said.
He accomplished his task, as the fans called for him to give an encore after he received his team MVP award.
A good sport
Before Amanda Beatty became an all-star basketball player, she was already a star in another sport.
Beatty was a wrestler.
For five years, Beatty not only took to the mat, she excelled at it, and she still has a mantle full of trophies to prove it.
"I got first place [in a tournament] at State College,'' said Beatty, a 5-foot-6 guard from Southern Huntingdon who suited up for the Central PA girls team on Friday night.
Beatty got her start in wrestling in Mount Union's strong youth program. When her family moved out of that school district, she continued to compete for her old school at tournaments before finally switching over to the hardwood, where she became a multiple-year Inter-County Conference North Division all-star.
As a wrestler, though, Beatty was always facing off against boys.
"Definitely, when I beat them, they cried,'' Beatty said. "I never had anybody forfeit, but they were always like, 'Why do I have to wrestle a girl?'''
Out of action
Central's Lindsey Smith, Conemaugh Valley's Jen Percinsky, Hollidaysburg's Jarrett Shannon and Altoona's Rafeeq Barnes could not participate due to injuries and were recognized before their respective games.
Smith sported a brace on her right knee after having surgery two weeks ago to repair the anterior cruciate ligament she tore during the Lady Dragons' District 6 Class AA playoff loss to Richland.
"I'm just glad [the ACL tear] didn't happen at the beginning or middle of the season,'' Smith said. "At least I was able to play my senior year.''
The games will be televised by the Altoona Public Access Channel 14 beginning at 9 p.m. Friday, April 13. It will also air on Saturday, April 14, also at 9 p.m.
The games will also be televised on Atlantic Broadband in Johnstown via its On Demand program.
Rich DeLeo and Bernie Jubeck are the announcers.
The Altoona Area High School pep band, under the direction of Larry Detwiler, performed during the game Andrew Brown of Hollidaysburg performed a juggling routine at halftime of both games Paige Lightner sang the national anthem. Attendance for the doubleheader was estimated at 1,300.