H.S. BASKETBALL: Ligonier reaches district title game
EBENSBURG — Ligonier Valley, which moved up to Class AAA this season, will play for a district championship Saturday.
Ligonier Valley knocked off Westinghouse, 45-38, in the District 5-6-8 semifinals Thursday night at Central Cambria High School, setting up a game against Forest Hills for the title at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Francis University.
“It’s a whole new class for us. It means everything,” Ligonier Valley coach Paul Dominic said.
Ligonier (16-6) survived foul trouble to two of its top players and got a big lift from senior Kyra Ludwig and the bench. Ludwig, a senior guard, scored a game-high 18 points, and forwards Kari Kuhn, a sophomore, and Helene Bloom, a freshman, provided a lift when Maddy Grimm and Stephanie Heming were saddled with foul trouble.
Grimm, Ligonier’s leader in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists, and Heming, who is second in scoring, sat out about the equivalent of one quarter spanning the third and fourth periods. They finished with five points apiece, well below their season average.
Ligonier held a 13-point lead, 18-5, in the second quarter, but Westinghouse (17-10) pulled within seven, 18-11, at halftime.
The surge continued in the second half, and when Grimm and Heming ran into foul trouble, the Bulldogs put the finishing touches on an 18-3 run and took a 23-21 lead.
Westinghouse capitalized with defensive pressure. The Bulldogs also got a break because the Rams had to take off their defensive pressure with the starters on the bench.
“We couldn’t put it on because of the foul trouble,” Dominic said. “Then we decided to go with it, and that’s when we got our lead back.
“The girls we replaced them with went in with some fresh legs and no fouls. You got to give them some credit.”
By the end of the third quarter, Ligonier restored an eight-point lead, 35-27, and stretched it to 10 early in the fourth quarter. Westinghouse pulled as close as three with three minutes left, and Ligonier ended the game by outscoring the Bulldogs 8-4.
Ludwig played the entire 32 minutes, and eight of her points came in the final minute and a half of the third quarter when the Rams restored their lead.
Taylor Rudnik chipped in nine points and four steals, and Grimm finished with six rebounds, five steals, four assists and three blocked shots.
The teams combined for 55 turnovers, 31 by Westinghouse and 24 by Ligonier Valley.
“Kyra Ludwig never took a break,” Dominic said. “She was tough at the point, made her layups, and she puts pressure high on defense where we need it.”
Ligonier Valley showed the effects of a 12-day layoff.
“We saw some timid passes, which isn’t customary for us,” Dominic said. “Three weeks ago, we were throwing sharp passes and handling the ball with authority. I saw the look on the girls’ faces, and they were timid.”
Forest Hills (18-4) advanced to the championship game with a 74-25 rout of Huntingdon.
“We’re going to practice hard (today), and we’ll be ready,” Dominic said. “We’re going to play a very good Forest Hills team. They’re a pretty explosive team. They’re very well-drilled.”
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, Ligonier clinched a state playoff berth.