Ligonier Valley boys advance to Heritage championship with win over Penns Manor

Monday, February 3, 2020 | 9:41 PM

Ligonier Valley sophomore Matthew Marinchak had a quiet first half Monday in a Heritage Conference semifinal game against Penns Manor.

But he made lot of noise in the second half when the visiting Comets were making a run at the Rams (20-2, 14-0).

Marinchak scored 22 of his personal-best 28 points in the second half, and he helped key a 19-0 run to lead Ligonier Valley to a 73-53 victory.

Penns Manor opened the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run before Ligonier Valley went on its big run to close the game.

Matthew’s brother, Michael, a senior, had 20 points, eight assists and eight rebounds as Ligonier Valley advanced to the championship game against Homer-Center on Friday at IUP’s Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

Homer-Center defeated West Shamokin in the other semifinal.

“This game worried me a lot,” Ligonier Valley coach John Berger said. “Their size worried me, but we did a good job denying their big man once we switched to a 2-3 zone.

“The players wanted to go man, but I thought the 2-3 zone, even though it reminds me of YMCA basketball. They had problems getting the ball to their big guy.”

Kevin Baum and Garrett Grimaldi, a 6-foot-5 forward, gave Ligonier Valley fits in the first quarter until a late run helped the Rams grab an 15-11 lead after a quarter. Baum scored 11 points in the first half, and Grimaldi scored eight of his 14 in the first half.

In the second quarter, the Rams heated up from beyond the 3-point line, with Kyle Silk, Jaxon Ludwig and the Marinchaks combining on five 3-pointers. The Rams stretched their lead to 38-23 at halftime.

Michael Marinchak scored 12 of his 20 points in the first half, including 10 in the second quarter to spark an 18-4 run to close the half.

“We went on a couple runs, and once they get it going, they are fun to watch,” Berger said. “When we do that, you can see the intensity pickup. That was a great high school basketball game. I told their coach that was the championship game.”

Penns Manor, which lost to Ligonier Valley earlier in the season, wasn’t about to head back to Clymer quietly. The Comets scored the first 11 points of the third quarter and eventually trimmed the deficit to 45-42.

But Matt Marinchak hit a couple late baskets, and the Rams pushed the lead to 52-42 heading to the final quarter. Penns Manor connected on four 3-pointers in the third quarter

“All my teammates found me, and I was hitting,” Matthew Marinchak said. “We came out slow on defense. We were flat-footed. We can’t come out like that again. They stayed with us, and they shouldn’t have.”

The Comets got the deficit down to five on a 3-pointer by Max Hill and a basket by Reese Hayes, then the Rams took over and Comets went cold.

“Its fun watching Michael and Matthew play,” Silk said. “It’s tough to play us man-to-man when we’re playing well. We played well in the fourth quarter.

“We knew they were going to be aggressive. We’re Ligonier. Everyone wants to beat us. We practiced hard for this.”

Silk finished with 13 points, all in the first half.

“When we got back in the game. We wanted to move the ball and be patient on offense,” Penns Manor coach Andrew Lansberry said. “After we cut it to three points, we got inpatient on offense and got away from our big guy (Grimaldi), which we didn’t want to do. We’ll learn from it and get better.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at

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