Ligonier Valley’s Marrek Paola named Westmoreland Trib Boys Basketball Player of the Year

Saturday, April 6, 2019 | 5:14 PM

Marrek Paola

Sr., C, Ligonier Valley

The traditional post player, old-school basketball buffs say, is all but extinct. The low block is a lonely place nowadays as the tallest players work the perimeter more often, their backs away from the rim.

But Marrek Paola proved the modern big man can still be quite effective.

The 6-foot-6 center from Ligonier Valley still roamed the lane, helped move the ball around and dominated on the glass.

He averaged 26.8 points and 16.9 rebounds and led the Rams to a runner-up finish in District 6-3A and a trip to the PIAA playoffs.

His big senior season earned him Tribune-Review Westmoreland Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors.

Paola, who will play at Seton Hill, finished with a school-record 1,912 points, 1,059 rebounds and 204 blocks. He is a program all-timer and will not be easily replaced.

Do you consider yourself a modern “Euro” big man or a traditional post player?

I tried to be a little bit of both, but my roots go back to being a traditional big guy.

What made you such a good scorer over the years?

Just constant practice and working on my game inside and outside the post and trying to get every offensive rebound and put back that I could.

How do you want Ligonier Valley fans to remember you?

I want to be remembered as the guy that left everything out on the court and was a good guy on and off the floor.

Have you ever tried on a pair of Michael or Matthew Marinchak’s goggles?

Yes I have and let me me tell you, I couldn’t see a thing once I put those things on.

Could the Rams have done well in the WPIAL?

I feel that our record might not have been as good, but I feel that our team could have went up against any team we played and would have done well.

Favorite memory from this season and your career?

Setting the all-time scoring record and getting 1,000 rebounds. And my favorite memory from my career would be winning the district championship and celebrating with friends and family

What can you bring to the Seton Hill program?

I hope I can bring them everything that I have; I can’t wait to get started and see what we can do.

What is a sport nobody knows you’re good at?

Not too many people know that I like to ski and play hockey every now and then, and I’d like to say that I’m not to bad at them.

Favorite TV show?

“Chicago Fire.”

Who did you have in your Final Four?

I had Duke, North Carolina, Texas Tech and Virginia.

Who is winning the NBA title this year?

I’d like to see the Celtics be able to win the title this year.

First team

Bryce Butler

Sr., G, Latrobe

Led Wildcats with 22.2 points per game. West Liberty recruit also averaged nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. Scored 1,114 points in three seasons after injuring knee as freshman.

Reed Fenton

Sr., G, Latrobe

Lehigh commit averaged 18.6 points as the high-scoring Wildcats returned to the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals. Also went for five rebounds, four assists and three steals a game. Finished with 1,300 career points.

Geoff Helm

Sr., G, Greensburg Central Catholic

Shippensburg recruit led Centurions back to the playoffs as he averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Shot 49 percent from the field. Finished career with 1,210 points between Blairsville and GCC.

John Kerr

Sr., C, Derry

Had breakthrough season for the Trojans, who returned to playoffs for first time since 2007-08. The 6-foot-6 post player averaged 16.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.6 blocks. Had 17 blocks in one game.

Nick Leopold

Sr., G, Franklin Regional

Three-year backcourt contributor emerged as Panthers’ top scorer, averaging 14 points per game for WPIAL quarterfinalist and PIAA playoff qualifier. Also produced 4.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals.

Michael Marinchak

Jr., G, Ligonier Valley

All-Heritage Conference player scored 16 points per game for Rams, who finished runner-up in District 6 Class 3A and reached the PIAA playoffs. One of area’s slickest-passing guards helped Rams average more than 70 points.

Dante Parsons

Jr., G, Greensburg Salem

Streaky scorer led the Golden Lions with 17.4 points per game. Also averaged 3.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and connected on 49 3-pointers. Also a quietly strong defender, he came up with 41 steals.

Kevin Stinelli

Sr., G, Penn-Trafford

Warriors’ go-to scorer in the backcourt, he led the team in scoring with a 16.2 average. Made 3-pointers in bunches, finishing with 62 makes from behind the arc.

Devin Whitlock

Fr., G, Monessen

Had stellar debut season for the Greyhounds, who came within a game of reaching the state finals in Hershey. Averaged 17.4 points and pulled down 5.2 rebounds despite his 5-7 size. Also averaged 3.4 assists and 3.4 steals over 28 games.

Second team

Jarett Bach, Sr., G/F, Yough

Ty Bilinsky, So., G, Norwin

Riley Comforti, Jr., G, Southmoreland

Reed Hipps, Sr., G, Hempfield

Jake Johnson, Jr., G, Mt. Pleasant

Matthew Marinchak, Fr., G, Ligonier Valley

Cam Nusser, Jr., G, Belle Vernon

Zach Rocco, Jr., G, Penn-Trafford

AJ Sharp, Sr., G, Jeannette

Jayden Walker, So., F, Norwin

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

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