Ligonier Valley boys chasing first PIAA win in 3 decades

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Friday, March 8, 2019 | 3:58 PM


Ligonier Valley has a proud sports heritage — not exactly the reason the Rams play in the Heritage Conference, but rather fitting nonetheless.

The boys basketball team has seen a surge in recent seasons and many of those proud followers around the program feel this is the group that will break through in the state playoffs.

The Rams (22-3) will take on Beaver Falls (10-14) at 4 p.m. Saturday in a PIAA Class 3A first-round game at Greater Johnstown High School.

Here’s the historic fact that will fuel a potential run in the Commonwealth bracket: The Rams have not won a state playoff game since 1987.

That year, they also were the second seed in District 6 and beat a WPIAL team, Burgettstown, in the first round. They lost to Windber in the second round.

This year, Ligonier Valley finished as the runner-up in District 6 after winning the district a season ago. The Rams lost in the first round of states last year to Lancaster Mennonite.

With 6-7 senior forward Marrek Paola leading the way, the Rams have one of their most talented groups in years. This has to be the one, right?

“It would mean a lot to us,” Rams junior guard Michael Marinchak said. “We have been working hard all week to get ready. We want to be the first team to win a state playoff game (in 31 years), just as we were the first to win the district last year.”

The 1980-81 Laurel Valley boys team — Laurel Valley later merged with Ligonier — is the benchmark team in the program.

That team went 33-2 and reached the PIAA Class A championship before falling to Milton Hershey.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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