Marinchak brothers move Ligonier Valley into District 6 semifinals

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Saturday, February 22, 2020 | 12:19 AM


Top-seeded Ligonier Valley survived the first game of its final season in the District 6 boys basketball playoffs Friday night, but it took a big scoring surge in the fourth quarter, led by the Marinchak brothers, to do it.

Senior Michael Marinchak scored 22 points, and sophomore Matthew Marinchak added 16, including eight in a row to open the fourth quarter, as Ligonier Valley ousted visiting Cambria Heights, 59-50, to advance to the Class 3A semifinals.

The Rams (22-2) will meet No. 5 Penns Valley on Tuesday night at a site and time to be determined. Penns Valley, also known as the Rams, beat No. 4 West Shamokin, 50-47, in the quarterfinals.

Michael Marinchak, the school’s second all-time leading scorer, scored 11 points in each half for the Rams.

Matthew scored 11 of the Rams’ 20 points in the fourth quarter, igniting a 10-0 run that rallied Ligonier Valley from a 40-39 deficit.

“A lot of times, he’ll get hot in the second half,” Michael Marinchak said. “When he gets on one of those streaks, we just look to get him the ball. He was pretty much the guy once he got going and that surge of his really helped.”

No. 8 Cambria Heights (11-13), which will replace Ligonier Valley in the Heritage Conference next season, when the Rams depart District 6 for the WPIAL, trailed from the start until surging ahead late in the third quarter.

The Highlanders’ Preston Lamb, who led all scorers with 24 points, scored on a bucket in close to give Cambria Heights a 40-39 lead heading to the fourth.

Just then, the Marinchak brothers took over.

Matthew Marinchak scored eight points in a row and Michael Marinchak added a pair of free throws to account for a 10-0 run that vaulted Ligonier Valley into a 49-40 lead, and the Rams held on.

“Both of those guys have been doing that sort of thing for us all year,” Ligonier Valley coach John Berger said.

The Rams, playing their first game without senior Kyle Silk, another 1,000-point scorer, earned their third consecutive berth in the PIAA playoffs. According to a PIAA ruling, Silk, after playing during the regular season, is ineligible for the postseason following his transfer from United.

“I think we missed him. It played a small part,” Berger said. “But I think we haven’t played in two weeks, and it showed.”

Ligonier Valley has been idle since winning its third consecutive Heritage Conference championship on Feb. 7 at IUP, beating West Shamokin, 64-47.

With Ligonier Valley surging, Cambria Heights was held scoreless in the fourth before Avery Farabaugh’s three-point play ended the drought and pulled the Highlanders within 49-43.

Lamb followed with a basket to make it 49-45, but Matthew Marinchak countered with a pair of free throws to give Ligonier Valley a 51-45 lead.

“I got that tingly feeling, and I decided to just keep going,” Matthew Marinchak said, his adrenaline seemingly still on a high long after the game had ended.

Matthew said his older brother didn’t hesitate to give him some love, either.

“He said he was proud of me for picking it up in the fourth quarter,” Matthew Marinchak said. “The first half was all him and the rest of the team. I just tried to keep it going.”

Matthew Marinchak was held scoreless in Ligonier Valley’s mere eight-point third quarter, while Michael Marinchak managed half the team’s points.

Farabaugh’s basket pulled Cambria Heights within 52-48, but Ligonier Valley, which made 9 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter — all by the Marinchaks — outscored the Highlanders, 7-2, the rest of the way.

“The Marinchaks are strong and physical,” Cambria Heights coach Eric Nagel said. “We knew we were going to have a tough time with them. We tried to keep them in check, but obviously, it didn’t happend down the stretch.”

Ligonier Valley carried a 17-15 lead into the second quarter and came away at halftime with a 31-27 advantage as Michael Marinchak led the way for the Rams with 11 points, and Jacob Hollick scored nine, all in the second quarter.

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