Boys basketball preview: Ligonier Valley readies for WPIAL

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020 | 6:23 PM


A little more than a month ago, Tim Gustin was preparing the Ligonier Valley girls for their return to the WPIAL after 40 years.

Then Ligonier Valley boys coach John Berger decided his regular job, Chief of Police in Ligonier Valley, was too demanding during the pandemic. So Berger stepped down, and Gustin was hired as his replacement.

Gustin is taking over a program that reached the District 6 Class 3A Championship game the past four seasons.

Now he’s preparing the boys for the new challenge of playing in the WPIAL.

Ligonier Valley returns two starters: junior Matthew Marinchak and senior Isaac Neidbalson.

That means there will be a lot of new faces in the starting lineup.

“I can’t wait to get started,” Gustin said. “I was able to have one get-to-know-you practice, and we got shut down until maybe Dec. 7.”

Despite the late start because of covid-19 concerns, Ligonier Valley must get 15 practices under its belt before it can play a game.

Gustin will find out a lot about his team once he can start coaching.

He coached the Ligonier Valley girls for five seasons and coached boys on the junior high level before being named the boys coach in early November.

“It’s going to be an adjustment,” Gustin said about coaching the boys. “I’m excited to work with them. It’s going to be an adjustment for them and myself.”

He’ll be counting on Marinchak, a two-year starter, and Neidbalson to carry the load. Conner Little, a 6-foot-6 junior, is a transfer from Norwin. He originally transferred from Scio, N.Y.

“Matthew was the third-leading scorer behind his brother Michael and Kyle Silk,” Gustin said. “We’ll be counting on him to be the leading scorer. Isaac is a good defender and rebounder. He’ll have to expand his game a little more.”

Ligonier Valley finished 23-4 overall last season and 15-0 in its final year in the District 6’s Heritage Conference. The season ended with losses to Richland in the District 6 Class 3A championship game and to Carlynton in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs.

This year, the Rams have numerous new opponents to learn about. They are in Class 3A, Section 3 with Apollo-Ridge, East Allegheny, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny, Steel Valley and Valley.

“It’s going to be a learning experience for all of us,” Gustin said, “and the players and I are eager to accept the challenge.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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