Carlynton boys outlast Ligonier Valley in PIAA Class 3A first round

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Saturday, March 7, 2020 | 9:14 PM


JOHNSTOWN — Carlynton and Ligonier Valley found another gear during a wild fourth quarter Saturday that saw the Cougars outlast the Rams, 85-81, in a first-round PIAA Class 3A boys basketball game at Johnstown High School.

Carlynton outscored Ligonier Valley, 32-27, during the fourth-quarter slugfest that saw the Rams rally from a 10-point deficit to briefly take the lead.

Carlynton seized control for good on DeQuay Canton’s two free throws to give the Cougars a four-point lead with 6 seconds left.

“I don’t usually sweat this much,” Carlynton coach Mike Kozy said afterward. “We’ve had so many games that were nip-and-tuck like that at the end … The confidence and the poise of the guys has really drawn off experience.”

Carlynton (16-9), the WPIAL fifth-place team, advances to Wednesday’s second round against Beaver Falls, the WPIAL seventh-place finisher, at a site and time to be determined.

Khalil Kerr scored 21 points — 11 in the fourth quarter — to lead Carlynton, which was without leading scorer Chauncie Mickens for most of the second half after the senior guard fouled out in the third quarter. Mickens had 12 points.

Mark Phillips added 19 points, and Canton had 14 for Carlynton, which led by as many as 14 points in the second quarter.

“I’ve talked about the team concept with our guys,” Kozy said. “A team doesn’t just fold because their best player steps off the court. They keep going. Mark (Phillips) is a senior and played really well, and DeQuay (Canton) came up big there on those free throws. I’m proud of them all.”

Matthew Marinchak’s 30 points — 19 in the fourth quarter — led District 6 runner up Ligonier Valley, which lost its second game in a row after having a 20-game winning streak stopped by Richland in the District 6 championship game.

The Rams also made a first-round exit from the PIAA playoffs a year ago with an 84-68 loss to Beaver Falls.

Marinchak hit back-to-back 3-pointers and sank a pair of free throws on a technical foul call against Carlynton to spark Ligonier Valley’s late comeback.

Michael Marinchak, Ligonier Valley’s second all-time leading scorer, finished with 21 points in his final high school game.

“I think we’ll be able to see him play someplace (in college) pretty close,” said Ligonier Valley coach John Berger, an uncle of the Marinchak brothers.

The 6-foot Michael Marinchak, who is drawing interest from Division II and III schools, has not publicly made a commitment for next year. He scored more than 1,700 career points at Ligonier Valley.

With Michael Marinchak playing with four fouls, Matthew, a sophomore, led an 11-0 Ligonier Valley run that erased a 10-point deficit before Carlynton scored the game’s final five points.

“We were playing a heckuva team,” Kozy said. “That team is not going to just say, ‘OK, we’re down 14. We’re going to go away.’ They’re going to play all the way to the end. Hats off to them for what they did.”

Berger, who is chief of the Ligonier Valley Police Department, hinted afterwards at a possible retirement from coaching, saying his duties have increased following the January 2019 merger of the Ligonier Borough and Ligonier Township police departments.

“Maybe we’ll see you next year. Maybe we won’t. I might be in the bleachers, and I might be on the bench. I don’t know,” Berger said. “I’m going to take a month. It’s just so hard with that new police department. I have a lot more to do. But they’ve let me do this, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.”

Berger has coached Ligonier Valley from 2011-13 and took over the program again in 2018.

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