HS BASKETBALL: Ligonier Valley girls fall in district title game
LORETTO — A dozen first-half turnovers helped build a 10-point lead for the Forest Hills Rangers during Saturday’s District 6 Class AAA girls’ championship at DeGol Arena at St. Francis University.
The 10-1 run by the Rangers to open the second half helped to put away second-seeded Ligonier Valley in Forest Hills’ 56-48 victory.
The Rams (16-7) still qualify for the PIAA Class AAA playoffs as the runner-up in the District 5-6-8 subregion and draw District 10 champion Franklin next Saturday. It marks the second run to the state tournament in three seasons for Ligonier Valley, which was the District 6-AA runner-up in 2011.
That kind of experience means great things for the future of the Ligonier Valley program, especially with the team’s current senior leadership of Maddy Grimm and Kyra Ludwig, who played prominent roles on that 2011 team.
“They’re mature enough to bring these kids into the realm of where we need them,” Rams coach Paul Dominic said. “Our two senior captains have nurtured the rest of these gals into the acceptance of being varsity players and accepting their roles on the team. I would have to give most of the credit to our seniors.”
Forest Hills claimed its second straight district title, this one in the Class AAA bracket. The Rangers (19-4) captured the 6-AA championship last year by topping Richland.
The Rangers will face Hampton, the fifth-place representative from the WPIAL, in the PIAA tournament game.
“These girls believed in themselves from Day One,” Forest Hills coach Carol Cecere said. “ I did too. They forced other people to believe in them. Everybody said, ‘You lost too much. You lost three starters’ and ‘Will they be able to return?’ ... They believe in themselves, and I’m so proud of them.”
Senior guard Casey Gallaher netted a game-high 21 points — 16 before stepping off the floor with an apparent minor leg injury late in the second quarter.
It was Gallaher who scored the game’s first five points over the first two minutes, connecting on a 3-pointer with 6:11 left in the quarter. A putback by Ligonier Valley’s Amanda Ross opened the Rams’ 8-0 reply highlighted with two baskets by Grimm. Another Gallaher 3-pointer knotted the score before Amanda Meier’s two free throws put the Rangers ahead to stay.
Forest Hills led 14-11 after the first quarter and stretched its lead to 31-17 late in the second quarter on a basket from Jill Scott, who hit a 3-pointer a possession earlier during the 17-6 spree to open the second. A quick rally by the Rams, sparked by five of Grimm’s 17 points, helped to slice the lead to 10 heading into intermission.
Caitlyn Gallaher’s 3-pointer ignited an 11-1 Rangers run that opened the second half, stretching the lead to 20.
Ligonier Valley pulled to within 12 late in the third before a conventional 3-point play from Jill Scott ran the lead to 47-32 to end the stanza.
The Rangers’ lead never shrunk below eight during the fourth. That occurrence came on a Madison McLaughlin bucket to close out the scoring.
The team effort for the Rangers showed itself in multiple facets of the game and became more apparent when the squad picked up Casey Gallaher’s scoring slack in the second half while maintaining their defensive intensity.
“It’s great because one person can’t win a game,” Casey Gallaher said. “And you know you’ll always have your team behind you.”
Grimm led the Rams with eight rebounds.