KAREN HALL WITH SEAN GILBERT
Sean Gilbert, Kurt Wolfe and Karen Hall were among 16 people inducted June 7 into the WPIAL Hall of Fame at Double Tree Hotel in Greentree.
Sean Gilbert, a 1989 graduate of Aliquippa, was a 6-5, 280-pound linebacker who in 1988 was named USA Today’s national Defensive Player of the Year. He won two WPIAL championships at Aliquippa.
“When I went to college at Pitt I was moved from linebacker to the defensive line,” said Gilbert. “I should have stayed at linebacker. That’s the position that I loved to play.”
Gilbert also was the starting center on the Aliquippa PIAA State championship basketball team in 1989.
“Basketball was my favorite sport,” said Gilbert. “Most people don’t know that I had several Division I basketball offers and I was very close to going to Auburn to play basketball.”
He went on to play football at Pitt, and was an All-American in 1991. He was was selected by the Los Angeles Rams as the third overall pick of the 1992 NFL Draft and played 11 seasons in the NFL. He’s the uncle of current NFL star Darrelle Revis.
There were some very moving moments as the honorees accepted their awards. Pine Richland high school baseball coach Kurt Wolfe’s award was presented to him by his wife in a beautiful heartwarming fashion.
The WPIAL Hall of Fame Committee has organized a WPIAL Courage Award in conjunction with the WPIAL Hall of Fame. Wolfe, since 2009, has battled stage IV colon cancer that spread to his liver and threatened his life. He led his team to the 2010 WPIAL Baseball Championship following two surgeries and on-going chemotherapy treatments while never missing a game. In 2012 his team formed a service group known as the “WOLFE-PACK.”
Inductee Karen Hall led Mt. Alvernia Girls’ Basketball team to a championship in 1983. Mt. Alvernia was the first WPIAL team to go through an entire season with an undefeated record. The Lions dominated Class A in 1983 and finished 34-0. Their dominance was apparent in both the WPIAL and PIAA Championship games. In the WPIAL Championship, they defeated Bishop Boyle 81-45 and in the PIAA final, they defeated Camp Hill 78-52.
In 34 games the team had an average of 73 points per game and outscored their opponents by an average of 34 points per game. The team was ranked No. 25 in the USA Today. Five members of the team played college basketball.
“It’s Howdy Doody Time,” was our theme song,” said Hall. “It may sound corny but the song really pumped us up.”
Mt. Alvernia was coached for 48 years by the legendary Dee Porucznik.
“Coach Dee was a trailblazer, advocate, mentor for strong women,” said Hall. “She had a great set of eyes, great set of ears and a colorful personality. She would tell us that when you have them down go for the jugular.”
Hall was still little, maybe 11 or 12 and playing youth basketball, when other started predicting greatness for the Hill District resident.
“Coaches from Mt. Alvernia came to my grade school All-Star game and afterwards I decided to attend Mt. Alvernia instead of St. Paul Cathedral (Now Oakland Catholic),” said Hall. “I played in the Ozanam Basketball League from from the age of 13 to 18. I played on the team with the legendary Mary Meyers and Jennifer Bruce Scott.”
Hall still holds the record at UNLV for most career steals and in 1996 she was inducted into the Western PA High School Hall of Fame.
She was the first woman to play in the Connie Hawkins Summer League and also was a coach from 1989-1991, winning two league championships.
While Hall rose to stardom with her accomplishments on the hardwood, she never forgot where she came from.
“I was baptized as a Catholic at a very young age and a proud member of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church,” said Hall.
“At Mt. Alvernia, we were good Catholic girls but we used to dance to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ at halftime. We didn’t know what we were doing.”
Other players joining Gilbert, Wolfe and Hall in the Hall’s seventh class were Jeremy Hunter (McGuffey, 1996); Bimbo Cecconi (Donora, 1945); Christa Harmotto (Hopewell, 2005); Elaine Sobansky-Blackhurst (Trinity, 1980); Megan Schnur (Butler, 2002); Tyler Palko (West Allegheny, 2002); Jack Waltz (Mt. Lebanon, 1963); Coach Don Barth (North Catholic); Coach Lindy Lauro (New Castle); Coach Jack McCurry (North Hills); Coach Donna Richey (Aliquippa); Don “Woody” Woodward (Official); Jack Fullen (Lifetime award);Team. Quaker Valley boys soccer (1996). The 1983 Mt. Alvernia girls basketball team of Hall, Madalyn “Sam” Gottschalk-Rogers, Kim Schreiber-Rothwell, Maureen “Mo” Conley-Kovacish, Patty Breitenbach Simcic, Maria Simonic, Stephanie Stout Stalinowski, Luci DeFranco Casile, Kathy Krebs Keller, Chris Meyer, Asst. coaches Larry McCabe, Mario Cutruzzula, Donna Broskey and Head Coach Dee Porucznik.
HONOREES-Front row left to right: Lou “Bimbo” Cecconi, Jack McCurry, Karen Hall, Mary Barth,wife of Don Barth; Elaine Sobansky, Christa Harmotto, Donna Richey, and Jeremy Hunter. Back row: Gene Klein, Dick Black, for Jack Waltz; Lindy Lauro for dad Lindy Lauro; Kurt Wolfe, Sean Gilbert, Tyler Palko, Don Woodward, and Jack Fullen. (Photos by Gail Manker)