N. Cambria eyes Heritage repeat, but Ligonier Valley, others could stand in way
By Dave Mackall
Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 11:48 p.m.
Defense! Sure, Northern Cambria boys basketball coach Dan Weber is hoping for some of it.
But not just on the floor.
Weber has been intently studying his players in preseason practices to see if they understand how difficult it can be to defend a championship.
In this case, Northern Cambria didn't just claim the 2011-12 Heritage Conference title, it won the District 6 Class A championship by beating Bishop Carroll by a single point.
“I truly believe these kids will work harder and do it all over again,” Weber said. “There's a sense of trying to get back there.”
The Northern Cambria boys team, with five returning starters and a move to Class AA, and the Class AA Blairsville girls team, with four starters back, are favorites to win Heritage Conference championships this season.
Former Blairsville girls coach Ralph McGinnis returns to the Bobcats after a three-year stint at Richland, where his 2012 team defeated Blairsville in the District 6 championship game.
“I'm inheriting a team that was 21-5 last year and has all our starters back,” said McGinnis, Blairsville's fourth coach in as many years. “There aren't too many coaches who have had that opportunity.”
For Weber and the Northern Cambria boys, a small, quick and experienced team that includes four senior starters, could have enough firepower to overcome the rest of the field, including a number of other experienced teams.
Ligonier Valley, with five players 6-foot-5 to 6-7, is likely to provide the biggest test for Northern Cambria.
“We're pretty big. We have some height and we're athletic,” Ligonier Valley coach John Berger said. “Our length will give teams problems.”
Northern Cambria guard Adam Polites heads the Colts' returning starting five after averaging 15.8 points per game as a junior. He edged 6-7 junior Alec Bloom (13.6 ppg.) of Ligonier Valley for preseason player-of-the-year honors.
“We might have a little target on our back this year,” Weber said. “We opened some eyes with the success we had last year.”
Northern Cambria was eliminated from the PIAA Class A playoffs with a 72-50 loss to Visionquest Academy of District 10.
At Blairsville, McGinnis succeeds P.J. Vrankovich as coach, returning to a school where he coached from 1996-2001, notching 20-win seasons in his final two years.
“It was hard to say goodbye to those kids at Richland,” McGinnis said, “but I had a long drive up there every day. I'm blessed to be back in Blairsville. I live 500 yards from the school.”
Senior guard MacKenzie Livingston (14.0 ppg.), the Tribune-Review's conference preseason player of the year, and sophomore forward Chelsea Koren (13.7 ppg.) lead the Bobcats, who lost to McGinnis and Richland, 54-43, in the District 6 Class AA championship game in 2011-12.
Ligonier Valley, led by seniors Kyra Ludwig (11.7 ppg.) and Maddy Grimm (11.3 ppg.), was chosen to finish runner-up to Blairsville in the girls team race.
“We're nine players deep. We'll be fine,” Ligonier Valley coach Paul Dominic said. “We're ready to play. We're in good shape.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5617.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alle-Kiski Roundball Classic notebook: Luther twins playing last games together
- ‘Hoops for a Cure’ rosters announced
- Vincentian basketball star Wise beyond her years
- Apollo-Ridge’s Tipton, Kittanning’s Knepshield named Leader Times Basketball Players of the Year