Nazareth Prep boys roll over Ligonier Valley with strong second half

Friday, December 6, 2019 | 9:31 PM

This wasn’t how Ligonier Valley boys basketball coach John Berger envisioned the season-opener.

The Rams opened Friday at Derry’s Chuck Smith Tip-Off Classic and got drilled by reigning WPIAL Class A champion Nazareth Prep, 89-52.

Nazareth Prep, which got 35 points from senior Will Taylor, outscored Ligonier Valley, 57-23, in the second half after leading 32-29 at halftime.

“If we don’t buy into playing as a team, we’ll have a lot of games like this,” Berger said. “I’m very frustrated right now. We didn’t rebound, and we weren’t in good position. Too much individual play.”

Nazareth Prep started three players 6-foot-5 or better and, combined with its speed, bothered the quick Rams.

Taylor, a 6-foot-2 guard, proved to be a difficult matchup for the Rams defense. He made a couple of 3-pointers and was a force in the paint. He scored 15 points in the first half and 20 in the second half.

“I’m not surprised what he did,” Nazareth Prep coach Nehemiah Brazil said. “He’s a special player. He’s like a fourth son to me.”

The game was delayed by 15 minutes because Nazareth Prep didn’t arrive at Derry until minutes before to tip-off. But the Saints jumped out to an 11-4 lead behind Taylor and Nehemiah Brazil, the coach’s son.

Despite shooting poorly, Ligonier Valley stayed in the game with its hustle. The Rams’ only lead was 4-2 after consecutive baskets by Jaxon Ludwig and Cooper Mills.

Nazareth Prep led 15-10 after a quarter and 32-29 at the break.

Then things went haywire for the Rams in the third quarter, and the Saints took advantage, using a 14-0 run to build a 48-31 lead.

“We played a much better game in the second half,” Brazil said. “We missed some chances in the first half and, quite frankly, Ligonier Valley outhustled us.”

Nazareth Prep outscored Ligonier Valley, 28-6, in the third quarter.

They kept the pressure on in the fourth quarter and outscored the Rams, 29-17.

“Down 3 at halftime and lose by 40,” Berger said. “We went back to playing individual basketball. We’re used to being quicker than teams, and they were faster than us. We have to get things right.”

Michael Marinchak led the Rams with 16 points and Ludwig added 14.

Brazil, the coach’s son, had 20 and Jaden Gayles came off the bench to tally 13.

In the other game, Kiski Area rallied to defeat Derry, 88-61. Ken Blake scored 25 points, and Joe Lucas added 22 — thanks to seven 3-pointers — for the Cavaliers.

Kiski jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, but Derry rebounded to grab a 15-9 lead after a quarter. The Trojans seemed to be in control for much of the second quarter before Kiski Area put on a late rush thanks to three 3-pointers from Lucas, to grab a 38-34 lead at halftime.

“I felt we were in good position until Lucas made those 3s and we turned the ball over,” Derry oach Tom Esposito said. “We were not physically tough enough. They went to the basket strong. We turned the ball over 22 times, 17 in the second half. We got sloppry.”

Derry stayed in the game in the first half behind the play of Justin Huss, who finished with 18. Aiden Bushey had 14 points, and Sam Jones added 12.

Kiski Area pulled away in the second half, outscoring Derry, 50-27.

“We started slowly and then see started making shots,” Kiski Area Will Saunders said. “Once shots started faling, our defense picked up.”

Kyrell Hutcherson added 11 for Kiski, and Max Heinle had 10.

Ligonier Valley will face Kiski Area at 5 p.m. Saturday, and Nazareth Prep faces Derry at 7.

“We better come out playing like a team against Kiski Area,” Berger said. “And we better learn how to block out better because of our lack of height. The Heritage Conference won’t be easy, and playing as a team is essential.”

The first Heritage Conference game is Tuesday at Penns Manor.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at

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