Paola’s double-double leads Ligonier Valley past Kiski Area

By: HSSN Staff
Saturday, December 8, 2018 | 8:51 PM

With two games in the books, John Berger is content with the results.

For now.

“Success will follow,” said Berger, in his second stint as boys basketball coach at Ligonier Valley, which enjoyed a landmark season a year ago that included its first District 6 championship.

On Saturday, center Marrek Paola, one half of Ligonier Valley’s high-scoring duo that also includes point guard Michael Marinchak, notched 32 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Rams to an 80-52 rout of Kiski Area at the Derry Area Chuck T. Smith Tip Off Tournament.

Marinchak added 12 points, Isaac Neidbalson 11 and Jaxon Ludwig 10 for the Rams (2-0).

It’s early in a new season, but if the results of Ligonier Valley’s games this weekend at Derry are an indication, opponents again will be in for a tough time.

“They’re very experienced and poised. You can tell they’ve been in the moment,” Kiski Area coach Will Saunders said.

It was the second time in as many days Ligonier Valley hit the 80-point mark.

The Rams defeated District 5 Class A Berlin Brothersvalley, 86-72, on Friday as the 6-foot-8 Paola scored 26 points.

“We’re definitely a younger team this year,” Paola said, “but from what I’ve seen so far from the younger guys, they’re already starting to mature enough that I think we’re capable of making another run.”

Ligonier Valley outscored Kiski Area (0-2) in all four quarters as Paola dominated the WPIAL Class 5A Cavaliers at both ends of the court.

“The big kid took it to us,” Saunders said. “I thought we showed some fight, but that is a good team there. They’re got talent up and down the roster.”

Saunders was hoping the Cavaliers could overcome Ligonier Valley’s potent inside-outside combination by limiting the rest of the Rams’ lineup, but the task was overwhelming.

“We knew what Paola and Marinchak were capable of,” he said. “We wanted to make the other guys beat us.

“When you have guys coming in off the bench and making foul-line jumpers and deep 3s, when you have two dynamic players and a group of talented role players, that’s tough to beat.”

Jason Baker led Kiski Area with 10 points after scoring 12 in a 59-46 loss to Class 4A Derry on Friday night.

Paola scored 13 first-half points for Ligonier Valley, which opened the season without senior guard Aaron Tutino. The school’s record-setting wide receiver injured an ankle in the football team’s final playoff game and still is recovering.

The Rams’ 38-23 halftime lead quickly expanded in the second half behind Paola’s 19 points and a suffocating defense.

“You could tell our pressure was wearing them down,” Berger said. “I’m pleased with the effort in these two games. It’s good to get off to a winning start.”

The Rams last season began with three losses in their first five games and were 5-4 after nine contests.

But they finished 21-5 after defeating Richland in the District 6-3A championship game and losing by five points to Lancaster Mennonite in a PIAA first-round game.

Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.

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