HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL slide

The Road to the KCAC has been whittled down to the final four. 

The Heritage Conference girls’ basketball semifinals were set Tuesday night when United, as expected, beat Ligonier Valley, 47-15, to clinch the South title. The Lions (18-3, 12-1) set up a semifinal at home against West Shamokin (12-7, 9-4), the North runner-up. 

Penns Manor (19-1, 11-1), the North champion and the defending conference champion, plays host to Homer-Center (14-4, 10-2) in the other semifinal.

Both semifinals tip off at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The semifinalists have met once this season in crossover games. United held on for a 35-29 win at West Shamokin on Jan. 12.

“It’s going to be a defense battle,” United coach Paul Hall said. “They’re well-coached. They deny you. They’re a really nice group, and in-your-face defense. We have to be ready for them.

“The first game was 35-29, that’s a low-scoring game. I’m expecting he’s probably going to throw the same thing at me and try to take (Maizee) Fry out of the game a little bit more. That’s when the guards have to step up.”

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity,” West Shamokin coach Frank Nagy said. “Anytime you play a team as good as United it’s exciting. We want to have that challenge and see how we continue to grow as a team, so we’re looking forward to it.

“With that said, we know we’re going to have our hands full. We know we have to play a perfect game. It’s a tough place to play. We know it will be battle the entire time, if it’s anything like it was at our place.”

West Shamokin won the title in 2017, the first time it was contested at the KCAC, and lost in 2018 before missing the postseason last year. This year, the Wolves lost close games to Penns Manor and United and suffered two of their other seven losses by two points.  

“We lost to Penns Manor by six and three and United by six,” Nagy said. “We’ve been competing, but we haven’t gotten over the edge. I’m hoping we can do it this time.”

Penns Manor, whose only loss came to United, beat Homer-Center, 73-28, on Jan. 14. Penns Manor was coming off its only loss of the season. The Wildcats rebounded the following week and knocked off United, 48-46.

“We’ll go up there and hopefully play a better game than last time,” Homer-Center coach Tom Lasher said.

The boys’ semifinals are set for Monday, but one spot remains up for grabs between Purchase Line and Penns Manor. They meet Friday at Penns Manor, with the winner advancing to face Ligonier Valley, the South champion. West Shamokin, the North champion, plays host to Homer-Center, the South runner-up, in the other semifinal.

The semifinal winners advance to the championship games at the KCAC on Friday, Feb. 7, with the girls tipping off at 6 p.m. followed by the boys at approximately 8 p.m.

UNITED 47, LIGONIER VALLEY 15: United erased another slow start with a dominant second quarter on Senior Night to clinch the Heritage Conference South division title at home despite missing leading scorer Maizee Fry due to illness.

The Lions led 9-3 after the first quarter before using a 21-6 run in the second to take a 30-9 lead into halftime.

United hopes its most recent effort will snap a recent string of sluggish first halves as the Lions use a seven-day rest to prepare for its Heritage Conference semifinal showdown at home.

“The last few games we haven’t been playing at the top of our game,” Hall said, “but tonight we came out and played good defense. We shot the ball decently the first half. They’re realizing it has to be all 32 minutes of the game. We’ve been starting out slow. This little bit of rest might help us. We just have to prepare for West Shamokin.”

United’s lone senior, Laura Susick, had seven points and eight rebounds.

Lexi Silk led the Lions in scoring with 12 points, and Madison Duplin had 11. Brook Murlin grabbed eight rebounds, and Lauren Donelson dished out four assists.

For Ligonier Valley, Kaelyn Adams had 10 rebounds. Haley Boyd led the Rams with five points and made a pair of steals.

Ligonier Valley plays host to Homer-Center on Thursday.

WEST SHAMOKIN 65, MARION CENTER 43: West Shamokin closed out its conference schedule with a solid performance against Marion Center.

The Wolves led 16-5 after the first quarter, 36-16 at halftime and 55-27 after three quarters.

In the previous matchup between the teams at Marion Center on Jan. 6, West Shamokin led the Stingers by 15 points at halftime but couldn’t pull away during a 23-23 tie in the second half.

 “I’m just really happy with how we came out and our energy,” Nagy said. “Marion Center works very, very hard, and they’re a physical team, and at their place, especially the second half, I thought they got the best of us. I was glad to see our girls came out tonight aggressive and kept it up throughout the game. I’ve been waiting for us to put multiple quarters together, and the first three tonight were solid, so I’m happy with how the girls played.”

Sophie Fusaro drilled five 3-point field goals and scored a game-high 21 points for the Wolves. Abby Oesterling reached double figures with 12, as did Lexie Young with 10. Shelby Cessna had six steals and five assists, Shayla Cessna had five rebounds, and the sisters combined for 13 points. Oesterling finished with four steals and five assists, Young grabbed six rebounds, and Lydia McIlwain came up with four steals.

Laney Monroe led Marion Center with 13 points. Alexa Ackerman hit three 3-pointers for nine points. 

Marion Center (5-15, 2-10) plays host to Northern Cambria on Thursday. West Shamokin plays at Punxsutawney on Friday.

PENNS MANOR 61, NORTHERN CAMBRIA 21: Penns Manor outscored Northern Cambria 26-4 in the second quarter and eased past the Colts for its 19th victory in 20 games.

Three Comets scored in double figures, led by Lauren Bagley with 17 points. Lauren Dumm and Kassidy Smith scored 14 apiece.

Lauren Dumm also had six steals, six rebounds and five assists, Smith had six rebounds and five steals, and Megan Dumm had four assists and four steals.

Emma Kollar led Northern Cambria with 14 points.

Penns Manor closes its conference schedule Thursday at home against Purchase Line. Northern Cambria (1-17, 0-12) plays at Marion Center on Thursday.

HOMER-CENTER 61, BLAIRSVILLE 52: Homer-Center rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Blairsville.

Homer-Center, which trailed by as many as 14 points in the second quarter, cut the deficit to 10 by halftime and then chopped it in half while outscoring Blairsville 23-18 in a fast-paced third quarter. Homer-Center stayed hot and the Bobcats cooled off in the fourth, with the Wildcats holding a 20-6 advantage.

“We just played much better in the second half,” Lasher said. “Kennidy Page had eight of her points in the fourth quarter, and Molly Kosmack had six of her eight in the fourth. Those a big plusses in that last quarter.”

Marlee Kochman scored 21 points to lead the Wildcats. She went 9-for-9 at the line. Page hit two 3s, went 4-for-5 at the line and finished with 14 points. Macy Sardone, Kosmack and Ayannah Elliott each scored eight.

Kosmack also raked in 10 rebounds, Kochman handed out five assists and Vada Walbeck had four steals. Walbeck and Kosmack each had two blocked shots. 

Lexi Risinger led Blairsville with 15 points and Isabel Pynos and Abby Pynos combined for 21.

Homer-Center closes its conference schedule Thursday at Ligonier Valley. Blairsville plays at Bishop Carroll on Friday.

BOYS

APOLLO-RIDGE 63, SUMMIT ACADEMY 58: Jake Fello led four Apollo-Ridge players in double figures with 18 points, and the Vikings rallied from a first-half deficit to cap a sweep of host Summit Academy and clinch a WPIAL Class 2A playoff berth out of Section 1.

Apollo-Ridge (13-5) improved to 8-3 in the eight-team section and sits three games ahead of Winchester Thurston (8-9, 5-6) for third place with three section games remaining. Springdale and Sto-Rox are tied for first-place at 10-1 in section  play.

Apollo-Ridge plays host to Springdale on Friday before traveling to Winchester Thurston on Tuesday.

Against Summit Academy, the Vikings trailed 14-6 through eight minutes and cut the deficit to five, 24-19, at halftime. Apollo-Ridge continued to chip away after the break, using a 19-17 edge in the third quarter to draw within three, 41-38, entering the fourth.

And with the help of 10 points by Fello in the final period, the Vikings used a 25-17 run to seal a comeback win.

Dom Reiter chipped in 15 points, Klay Fiztroy and Keighton Reese had 12 points apiece, and Zander Garrone rounded out Apollo-Ridge’s scoring with six points.

Reese scored all of his points on four 3-pointers, and Fello and Reese each had a trio of 3s.

For Summit Academy, senior Lamar Fitzgerald scored 23 points on the strength of seven 3-pointers.