Ligonier Valley girls look to get back into Heritage Conference race

Friday, January 12, 2018 | 1:29 AM

Each team sets goals and expectations at the beginning of the season.

For the Ligonier Valley girls basketball team, they are right where they thought they would be.

The Rams are coming off a rough season where they went 8-15 but have been able to turn things around halfway through this campaign. They are 6-6 overall and 2-5 in the District 6 Heritage Conference but have plenty of opportunities to build on the wins within the conference.

“We are where we expected to be,” Ligonier Valley coach Tim Gustin said. “We try to play bigger schools. We travel a lot as well to prepare us for the playoffs. It is nice to play schools outside of the Heritage Conference.”

Some of the higher-classification teams they have played were Franklin Regional and Greensburg Salem. They beat Greensburg Salem and also played powerhouse Blairsville in a losing effort.

The biggest difference from this year to last is the presence of Lexie Petrof, who missed all of last season after ankle surgery. This season, Petrof is averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds. She is coming off a 26-point, 15-rebound performance in a win against Saltsburg.

“It has been huge to have her back,” Gustin said. “She adds stability with scoring and rebounds. She is a double-double waiting to happen.”

Petrof will be continuing her softball career at Akron, but it was important to come back for her senior season of basketball, she said.

“It was really important to me,” Petrof said. “I was missing it last year. I made it a priority to come back and play.

“The coach at Akron loves multi-sport athletes. They encouraged me to play this year. I didn’t want to lose another year of playing basketball with this group of friends.”

Behind Petrof, the Rams recently ran off a four-game winning streak. It was snapped Monday in a 61-40 loss to Homer-Center. The surge got the Rams back in contention, and it had to do a lot with their defense. In the four games, they allowed 39 points per game.

“Our defense has been very good this year,” Gustin said. “We have held teams to poor shooting percentage, and it kept us in the game. We have been setting the goal to keep teams under 40 points. We will have a good chance to win the game if we do that.”

The Rams’ goal is to sneak into the top four of the conference and make the playoffs, and they knew this week would go a long way to help them doing so.

They lost to West Shamokin on Wednesday and will play at Marion Center on Friday.

“We have a tough schedule, but we are very motivated to win and want to prove people wrong,” Petrof said.

Said Gustin: “This is a big week for us coming up to see if we have what it takes to make a run for the conference or district.”

Drew Karpen is a freelance writer.

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