Mike White | 9:20 p.m., Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Twenty-eight years ago this month, Leigh Curl was playing for the North Hills girls' basketball team and had 34 points and 28 rebounds in a five-overtime loss to Valley.
This past Sunday, Curl was at Heinz Field and got some television time while tending to Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee after he went down in the game against the Steelers. Curl is the Ravens' orthopedic team doctor.
Curl was the first female team orthopedic doctor in the NFL. She was an outstanding athlete at North Hills High School (basketball and softball) and went on to have a successful basketball career at the University of Connecticut.
She also was extremely successful in high school. As a junior in 1980, Curl helped North Hills win a Class AAA state softball title. That year, the state tournaments (baseball and softball) were played in Shippensburg in a double-elimination format over a five-day period. That is unlike today when games are played at different sites over a two-week period and the tournament is single-elimination. North Hills went 5-0 in the state tournament that year, and Curl pitched all five games. That was my senior year in high school and knew most of the players. I was also working part-time at the Post-Gazette and covered North Hills' games in the tournament.
What I remember most about that week-long tournament is what happened to the baseball teams. Because it was double-elimination over a five-day period, some teams had to play more than one game in a day. By Thursday of that week, teams that were still alive in the losers bracket were pretty much out of pitchers and were using third-team outfielders on the mound. The double-elimination format at one site lasted only a few years. One reason is because it was too expensive for schools. If a team went on to the championship, a school had to pay for five days of housing and meals.
Anyway, back to "whatever happened to so and so." To me, it's always interesting to see what some standout high school athletes make of themselves after their playing days are over. Just this week, I learned that former Chartiers Valley basketball star Mike Colbert lives in Las Vegas and is the Sportsbook director for Cantor Gaming. Colbert is the WPIAL's all-time leader in 3-pointers with 302.
Hal Koenemund was a sharpshooting guard on Blackhawk's 1992 state championship team. He also played at Robert Morris. He now runs his own restaurant, "Hal's" in Ross Township. I've been there. The place has good food, a nice atmosphere and Hal even waits on tables. He also has a basketball hoop in the back of the building.
Former Mt. Lebanon football standout Matt Smith, a one-time Post-Gazette Class AAAA player of the year, runs Olive or Twist in downtown Pittsburgh with Dan Prunzik, another Mt. Lebanon graduate who went on to play football at the University of Maryland. The place also has good food and all kinds of different martinis.