The Ligonier Valley boys basketball team has ridden junior standout Matthew Marinchak to a late-season surge.
Marinchak came through again for the Rams with another 30-point-plus output, as Ligonier Valley downed Steel Valley, 69-57, during a WPIAL Class 3A, Section 3 game played Tuesday at Ligonier Valley.
Marinchak tallied a game-high 33 points on Tuesday. It was the third time in four games Marinchak has scored 30 or more points.
Marinchak scored a career-best 36 points during a 17-point victory against East Allegheny, a win that snapped a five-game losing streak. He only scored 17 points during a 15-point loss at South Allegheny, the top seed in Class 3A, but rebounded with 32 points during a heartbreaking double-overtime home loss against Apollo-Ridge one night earlier.
Marinchak has scored 118 points, an average 29.5 per contest, during the recent four-game run. He now has 904 career points and is just 96 from becoming the 12th player in the 1,000-point club at Ligonier Valley. That group currently includes Marrek Paola, older brother Michael Marinchak, Jordan Jones, Adam Stinogle, Jeff Riffle and others.
Matthew Marinchak scored a game-best 33 points on Tuesday, draining 12 field goals, including four three-pointers and five free throws. Jaicob Hollick and Miles Higgins followed Marinchak, with eight and six points, respectively.
Ligonier Valley (4-6, 4-9) trailed by one point at halftime, but used a third-quarter surge, sparked by an offensive outburst and a strong defensive effort to pull away from Steel Valley.
Steel Valley played just its third game of the season on Tuesday, as the Ironmen were in an extended pause this season because of coronavirus (COVID-19) complications. Steel Valley has lost all three games this season, including a nine-point setback at South Allegheny on Jan. 18 and a 23-point loss against Shady Side Academy on Monday, prior to Tuesday’s defeat at Ligonier Valley. Jordan Fisher led Steel Valley with 17 points, while Makhai Valentine followed with 16 points. Jay Burt also ended in double figures with 11 points for the Ironmen.
The Rams trailed 9-2 and 15-7 before closing the first quarter on an 8-0 run to knot the score, 15-15, through the opening eight minutes. The two teams played on even terms in the second quarter, as Steel Valley outscored Ligonier Valley, 17-16, to take a narrow 32-31 lead into the break.
That’s when Marinchak and Ligonier Valley took over.
The Rams outscored Steel Valley, 22-11, in the third quarter to take a 10-point lead after three quarters, 53-43.
Steel Valley held a 35-34 lead early in the third quarter, but that was it. Marinchak’s three-pointer put the Rams ahead for good, while another bucket by the junior standout allowed Ligonier Valley to open a 39-35 lead.
Steel Valley trimmed the deficit to two points, 39-37, but Ligonier Valley scored the next four for a six-point advantage, 43-37. The Ironmen got it back to four points, 43-39, but the Rams ripped off a 7-0 run for a 50-39 lead, including a steal and a layup, as the Ligonier Valley defense began to take over. A late three-pointer allowed Ligonier Valley to take a 10-point lead, 53-43, into the fourth quarter.
Ligonier Valley outscored Steel Valley, 16-14, in the fourth quarter, as the Rams were able to keep the Ironmen within arm’s reach.
Steel Valley could only pull within 10 points on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter. A layup following a defensive turnover allowed Ligonier Valley to stretch the lead to 14 points, and the Rams made it a 16-point game, 65-49, with a 6-0 spurt, the final time Steel Valley pulled within 10 points.
Ligonier Valley is scheduled to visit Greater Latrobe, 7:30 p.m. today for an exhibition game against the Wildcats. Greater Latrobe has won three of its last four games, including a pair of buzzer-beating victories against McKeesport Area and Franklin Regional.
STEEL VALLEY (57)
Valentine 7-2-16; Burt 5-1-11; Fisher 6-2-17; Mitchell 3-0-8; Marrone 1-1-3; McCauley 1-0-2. Totals, 23-6(10)—57
LIGONIER VALLEY (69)
Neidbalson 3-0-6; Marinchak 11-5-33; Rhoades 1-0-2; Hollick 2-3-8; Higgins 3-0-6; Smykal 3-0-8; Kondisko 1-0-2; Grzywinski 0-2-2; Little 1-0-2. Totals, 26-10(13)—69
Score by Quarters
Steel Valley 15 17 11 14 — 57 Lig. Valley 15 16 22 16 — 69
Three-point field goals: Marinchak-4, Smykal-2, Hollick; Fisher-3, Mitchell-2