Ligonier Valley defense stymies Mount Union in District 6 semifinal victory

Monday, February 26, 2018 | 10:21 PM

Ligonier Valley coach Todd Hepner tried to get his team to slow down against Mt. Union on Monday in the District 6 semifinals at Hollidaysburg.

But the Rams were on a roll and didn't want to slow the pace.

Good thing they had a huge lead to play with.

A defensive change in the second quarter, predicated by foul trouble for Michael Marinchak and Jackson Daugherty, worked out well for the Rams and led them to a relatively easy 72-54 victory.

The second-seeded Rams (20-4) will play No. 1 Richland (21-3), which defeated Central Cambria in the other semifinal, for the District 6 Class 3A title Friday at Mount Aloysius.

“Slowing down is complete opposite what we like to do,” Hepner said. “We have to understand when you have the lead you need to work the clock and run our sets and look for easy layups.”

Ligonier Valley took the lead for good on a basket by Andrew Pleskovitch to make it 13-12 in the first quarter. The Rams led 22-17 by the end of the quarter. Marinchak scored 10 of his 21 points in the first quarter, but he picked up his second and third fouls which slowed his scoring.

The Rams used a 13-0 run, scoring the first nine points of the second quarter, to push the lead to 31-17. Ligonier Valley outscored Mount Union, 13-2, in the second quarter and led 35-19 at halftime.

“We like to use man defense,” Hepner said. “But they were a big team and we needed to dominate the boards. We gave them too many second chances at times.”

Mt. Union (14-10) was 0 for 13 from the field in the second quarter.

“We changed our defense in the second quarter, and the effort was there,” Hepner said. “We contained them to one shot and got the rebound. We got them into playing our game up and down the court. It was definitely the difference in the game.”

Ligonier Valley 6-foot-6 junior Marrek Paola took control in the third quarter thanks to his teammates, who got him the ball under the basket.

He scored 13 of his game-high 31 points in the third quarter as Ligonier Valley opened a 50-24 lead.

Marinchak (seven assists), Daugherty (six assists) and Aaron Tutino (three assists) set up Paola for easy baskets.

“It's nice to have teammates that can get you the ball and be able to work together,” Paola said. “We always know where we'll be on the floor. They're confident to get the ball to me.”

Paola had 12 points, five blocked shots, three steals and a couple of assists. Daugherty had nine rebounds and Pleskovitch added nine rebounds.

“We're not a one-man team,” Hepner said. “We have guys who can do a lot of things.”

Mount Union made a couple of runs in the second half behind the 3-point shooting for Quinton Posey, who made six 3-pointers and finished with 25 points, and Mykel Smith, who had three 3-pointers and ended up with 14 points.

“They got us out of our game,” Mount Union coach Scott McClain said. “The big kid (Paola) was a force inside and their zone forced us to shoot more 3s than we wanted.

“Ligonier Valley is a lot better in person than it is on film. We wanted to get (Marinchak) in foul to trouble, but they had other players step up.”

Mount Union used a 10-0 run to close the gap to 50-34 in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer by Ligonier Valley's Jaxon Ludwig at the buzzer pushed the lead back to 56-36.

“Jaxon's shot was huge for us,” Hepner said. “It gave us momentum heading into the fourth quarter.”

Now Ligonier Valley faces the top team in the district, and Hepner knows his team will be tested.

“Richland is an extremely solid team,” Hepner said. “They don't have a weakness. It's going to be a tough challenge, but we're looking forward to it.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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


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