Hooker leads New Castle ..... Freshmen stand out for Beaver Falls ..... PIAA roundup

Written by Mike White on .


A number of games involving WPIAL teams were postponed tonight because of the weather. Four games were played. Here are highlights from the games.

Malik Hooker had close to a triple double and New Castle stayed perfect with a 64-54 victory against North Allegheny in a PIAA Class AAAA second-round playoff game tonight at Ambridge.

Hooker has a sprained right wrist sustained in Saturday’s game against Bethel Park. Really? He put some hurtin’ on North Allegheny with 22 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five steals.

Malik HookerHooker (pictured) started slow, scoring only two points in the first quarter. His hand and wrist were taped to start the game, but Hooker ripped the tape off later in the first quarter.

“I was trying to just play through it, but I wasn’t playing how I should’ve been playing, so I just took [the tape] off,” said Hooker.

A key to the game was New Castle’s defense in the first half. North Allegheny didn’t have that much trouble with New Castle’s full-court pressure. It was when the Tigers got past half court that they had problems. North Allegheny had 18 turnovers in the first half. New Castle went on a 13-2 run to end the half and take a 34-21 lead to the locker room.

“The second half, we had only six turnovers and we played right with them,” said North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio.

Senior center Stew Allen was the only other New Castle player in double figures with 12. He also had seven rebounds.

Cole Constantinio, a junior guard, had a terrific game for North Allegheny with 32 points, including four 3-pointers. He made 11 of 15 shots.

Many times, North Allegheny didn’t run its usual offense. The Tigers gave the ball to Constantino and let him go one-on-one, sometimes clearing an entire side of the court for him. New Castle had trouble guarding him.

But in the end, New Castle won again, raising its record to 28-0.


*Beaver Falls 72, Summit Academy 48: Youth was served for Beaver Falls. Freshmen Donovan Jeter and Josh Creach had huge games in leading Beaver Falls to the win in a Class AA second-round game at North Allegheny. Jeter finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Creach had 21 points and 17 rebounds. Beaver Falls (20-7) will play either WPIAL runner-up Greensburg Central Catholic or West Middlesex in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Beaver Falls led by just five points at the half, but outscored Summit Academy, 18-11, in the third quarter to extend its advantage to 52-40, and then outscored the Knights, 20-8, in the fourth. Dasonte White led Summit Academy (17-7) with 18 points.

* Aliquippa 57, Quaker Valley 44: Jassir Jordan’s 23 points propelled the Quips (20-6) to their first quarterfinal berth since 2009 after the Class AA win against the Quakers (22-4) at Moon. Jordan was 8 of 11 from the free-throw line. Patrick Anderson added 13 points for the Quips, who have won 13 of their past 14 games.


* Elizabeth Forward 55, Mount Pleasant 37: The Warriors (22-4) moved on to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1989 by defeating the Vikings (16-10) at Hempfield. Alison Pastore led the Warriors with 17 points and Kylie Owoc had 16. The Warriors led, 29-15, at halftime.


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Google executive visits Pittsburgh, discusses Internet freedom, power and digital literacy

Written by Mila Sanina on .

It may be hard for you to imagine the world without Internet, but did you realize that 4.5 billion of people still do not have online access? It's hard to imagine the Internet without Google. But did you know that there are more than 30 countries where Google services have been blocked?

And it's a rare occasion to witness a Google executive speak about internet freedom in a theater nearly 100 years old. But that's exactly what happened on Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh: Google's Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations Ross LaJeunesse spoke at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, which opened in 1914, in East Liberty as part of the event organized by the World Affairs Council.
photo 2 4
His talk was titled "Freedom and Power in the Digital Age," he spoke on information security, freedom of information online and the rise of splinternets that emerge when governments worldwide are trying to control access to information on the web.
Mr. LaJeunesse began his speech with an anecdote about his niece who was born in the world where internet is a given and where she wants to swipe her television screen because that's how it works with the devices she is familiar with, she does not know look at the world as pre-internet or post-internet. It's just internet.  
The Google executive made a strong case in favor of free Internet, arguing that it's what people want even if their government doesn't and it's in line with Google's mission, which is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
"We live in the world where information is the most valuable commodity." And authorities worldwide are realizing how powerful this freedom can be, LaJeunesse said. He cited just a few cases of how a blog post, a YouTube video, a picture changed the world in a past few years: Bassem Youssef, a satirist known as "Egypt's Jon Stewart," started his comedy on YouTube, Martha Payne, who posted photos of her school lunch on her blog, inspired movements like hers worldwide. 
Everyone has a stake in free Internet, Mr. LaJeunesse argued. "If a company says it's not an Internet company?  I'd sell the stock."
Of course, these days when Snowden revelations bring more surprises every day about how connectedness makes us vulnerable, there are plenty of concerns about privacy and data protection online. LaJeunesse did not dispute that, but said that Google treats these things seriously. "It cannot afford doing otherwise, we realize that competition is just one click away."
But there is also need for digital literacy, parents need to make sure their kids understand what appropriate and not appropriate to post online, how to encrypt your data and protect yourself, LaJeunesse said. 
"We have to teach our kids how to be better citizens."
LaJeunesse confessed that he is not on Twitter and chooses to read his Sunday edition of the New York Times in print. He said that the beauty of technology is that people have choices. You can opt out or opt in depending on your comfort level. 


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PIAA postpones a number of games because of weather

Written by Mike White on .


Reacting to predictions of snow in Western Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) has postponed a number of boys and girls basketball playoff games scheduled for tonight.

Only four games will be played tonight while eight contests have been postponed until Thursday.

In boys games tonight, New Castle will play North Allegheny at Ambridge at 7, Quaker Valley will play Aliquippa at Moon at 7 and Beaver Falls will play Summit Academy at North Allegheny at 8. The Elizabeth Forward vs. Mount Pleasant girls game will be played, but it has been moved from Fox Chapel to Hempfield at 7.

Some of the games postponed tonight have been moved to different sites for Thursday. The postponed games are:

Boys – Hampton vs. McDowell to Thursday at Farrell, 8 p.m.; Seton-LaSalle vs. Mercyhurst Prep to Thursday at Sharon, 8 p.m.; Greensburg Central Catholic vs. West Middlesex to Thursday at North Allegheny, 7 p.m.

Girls – South Park vs. Hickory to Thursday at Farrell, 6:30 p.m.; Blackhawk vs. Villa Maria to Thursday at Sharon, 6:30 p.m.; Quigley vs. Clarion to Thursday, site and time to be determined; Bishop Guilfoyle vs. Serra to Thursday at Richland (Johnstown), 7 p.m.; Claysburg-Kimmel vs. Kennedy Catholic to Thursday at Hempfield, 6:30 p.m.; Vincentian vs. Berlin Brothersvalley to Thursday at Hempfield, 8 p.m.

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Snow crocus emerge bringing first color to the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

As soft, warm rain fell, the unmistakable tight blue buds of the snow crocus pushed fall leaves aside beckoning spring.

The garden is shrouded in fog as temperatures slowly begin to fall. Gardeners were teased by one warm, sunny day, but the appearance of these tiny flowers confirms what we already know; winter is fading away. It's not going without a fight, but the arrival of snow crocus can do nothing but put a smile on your face and warm your heart.

The flowers bring a little color now, but are guarding their spectacular deep blue blossoms and orange anthers, waiting for the right time to unfurl. When they do, the bees will gorge on their first taste of pollen for the year.

On hands and knees, this gardener observed the little particles of dirt the buds brought with them as they reached towards the sun. The tip of one flower hinted at the color which was yet to come.

blog snow crocus 031214I used to be surprised by the arrival of snow crocus. Now I wait patiently to see the tight buds unfurl. Photos by Doug Oster

blog snow crocus tight 031214The flowers, covered with spring rain bring with them a little garden soil as they emerge.

blog snow crocus whats to comeThe tip of this blossom hints at what is to come for these beautiful flowers.



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Oliver Luck talks Kickoff Game, rising trend in neutral-site openers

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck spared a few minutes Friday to discuss the details of the Chick-fil-A Game Kickoff Classic contract, which will land both West Virginia and Alabama a $3.2 million windfall, and the rising trend in neutral-site openers.

Luck is coming at this topic from a few different vantage points, being both an athletic director and a member of the newly established College Football Playoff committee, which has stated its early emphasis on strength of schedule. Thought he had plenty of interesting thoughts on the topic, and not everything fit in the story, so here's our Q&A.

Stephen J. Nesbitt: What was your initial reaction when you were first approached about playing Alabama in 2014?

Oliver Luck: "We were excited about it. One of the interesting developments in college football has been these quasi-bowl games at the beginning of the year. Neutral-site games are much more popular now. I actually think it all goes back to the National Football League. If you think about 20 years, take Pittsburgh for an example, old Three Rivers Stadium was run by the county (I think, right?), or the Astrodome in Houston was run by the county. They really had no interest to really maximize the value of that stadium. As these NFL teams all began to take over the leases, they've gotten much more proactive in trying to put together games. The Redskins might be the most proactive group, with all the stuff they're doing at FedEx. Whether it's Dallas or Atlanta, there's always been a kickoff classic going back for years, but there's many more opportunities. I think fans like it. These games have been pretty well received by fans.

"When the folks from Atlanta approached us, we thought, well, this is a great opportunity. Let's see if we can make it work. I forget the details, we may have had to move a team around to make that date available, but that's not uncommon."

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