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Ligonier Valley girls basketball team reloads

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 8:45 p.m.
Ligonier Valley guard Madison McLaughlin battles for a rebound during their December 11, 2012 contest versus Homer Center in Ligonier. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley guard Maddy Grimm pulls down a rebound during their December 11, 2012 contest versus Homer Center in Ligonier. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Coming off a successful trip to the state playoffs a year ago, most high school teams would look to rebuild after heavy graduation losses.

In the Ligonier Valley girls basketball program, they simply look to reload.

The Rams (3-0) have an abundance of talent returning for the 2012-13 season, headlined by senior do-everything Maddy Grimm.

The 5-foot-8 guard-forward has Ligonier Valley in position to be the frontrunner in the Heritage Conference.

“Maddy is the nucleus,” coach Paul Dominic said. “Everything we do — rebounding, bringing the ball up court, outside shooting … she does it all. She is just a great leader. The younger players learn from her and observe it. It's the little things — working hard in practice, paying attention to the little details.”

Grimm has played a key role in Ligonier Valley starting undefeated after three games, including a 48-45 victory over powerful WPIAL neighbor Greensburg Salem.

The Rams, unlike most teams, will not feature a traditional game plan. Rather, according to Dominic, they will attack based on each individual opponent.

“We don't have a set plan,” Dominic said. “Every game and every opponent is different. We have a very smart group of girls, a very deep group. Every team we face will see a different style of defense. I like to say we have a good recipe book. We adapt well.”

The Rams will face a tougher schedule this year after moving up to Class AAA. It's a move Dominic believes will only help the program despite facing much larger enrollments.

“Our girls are eager to learn,” he said. “I believe we have some great athletes, and now we will be paired with some great athletes. We have a group this year of very well-balanced athletes. These girls play all the other sports, and that's why they are successful, too.”

Dominic points to his team's recent victory over Greensburg Salem as a building block toward the rest of the season.

“We played them early,” he said. “We may see them again down the road. They are just a great team, very well-coached and tremendous athletes. It was a great showdown. With us moving up in class we may see them again. We are very similar teams. We both have rosters full of girls who show up each day and go to work.”

Besides Grimm, Dominic will turn to two junior starters — junior guard/forward Stephanie Heming and guard Taylor Rudnik.

“Last year we had some injury problems,” Dominic said. “Usually you lose two seniors (to injury), and it's a major problem. Last year we were fortunate to have these two sophomores step up and fill major roles. Now, looking back, we have two starters who have been a part of two 19-5 teams.”

Along with his new starters, Dominic has the luxury of a very deep bench. Through their first three games, the Rams have employed a contingent of 11-12 players.

“We may not stay this deep all year,” Dominic said. “But the rumor is the Heritage Conference has many teams down in enrollment and many may have trouble fielding junior varsity teams. It's very important we get these kids some minutes.”

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

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