Ligonier Valley, Richland meet in District 6 title-game rubber match

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Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 9:30 PM


It’s the last go-round for the Rams and the Rams.

Ligonier Valley and Richland will play their final boys basketball game as District 6 foes Friday in a shortstanding rivalry, matching up for the third consecutive time in the Class 3A championship game at Mt. Aloysius.

Ligonier Valley next season is moving to the WPIAL.

“I told the guys, we got them again. You got the same thing I wanted. Now, it’s time to take care of it,” Ligonier Valley coach John Berger.

Top-seeded Ligonier Valley (23-2) advanced with a 60-46 victory over another Rams team, Penns Valley, in the semifinals. Defending champion Richland (16-7) got past Westmont Hilltop, 60-54.

No. 3 Richland will be playing in its fourth district title game in a row, the past three against Ligonier Valley. Both teams have won one title against the other.

“It’s a credit to our kids and how hard they play and the expectations we put on our program,” Richland coach Greg Burke said after the Rams’ semifinals win.

Ligonier Valley defeated Richland, 58-54, in the 2018 championship game before losing in a PIAA first-round game to Lancaster Mennonite, 65-60.

Richland, after needing overtime to get past Ligonier Valley, 68-64, made it further last season in the PIAA playoffs, losing to WPIAL-champion Lincoln Park, 66-57, in the quarterfinals.

Both teams enter their latest championship battle with a different look.

Collin Instone, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound former Richland center, is playing football at New Hampshire. Marrek Paola, a 6-9 center from Ligonier Valley, is a freshman at Seton Hill.

“Without those big guys, it’s going to be different. It puts a lot more pressure on the two senior leaders,” Berger said, referring to senior point guards Caleb Burke, the Richland coach’s son, and Ligonier Valley’s Michael Marinchak.

Both players lead their respective teams in scoring.

“Caleb is a really good player, and I talked to him during a timeout last year and told him that,” Berger said. “Just to watch him play, you know he’s got great instincts. It’s going be a challenge we hope we’re up to. We’re looking forward to it.”

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