Blairsville takes down Ligonier Valley girls in dominating performance
During pregame warm-ups prior to Thursday night's District 6 Heritage Conference showdown between Blairsville and Ligonier Valley, school officials had to reattach the net on one of the baskets.
It was a good thing they did because it got one heck of a workout from the host Bobcats once play started.
In what was billed as a battle of league heavyweights, this matchup quickly ended with a first-round knockout.
Blairsville (11-1, 7-0) dominated every facet en route to a commanding 63-21 victory. The win was the 11th straight for the Bobcats, who used a relentless up-tempo offensive attack and suffocating defense to overpower the visiting Rams (4-2, 7-3).
Blairsville, using a ferocious full-court press, forced Ligonier Valley into numerous first-quarter turnovers. The Bobcats built a 15-6 lead by the end of the first quarter and extended the advantage to 36-11 by the intermission.
Ligonier Valley was without its top scorer and defender, Maddy Grimm, who sat out with an ankle injury. She is expected to return next week.
With Grimm out of the lineup, the Rams had a difficult time penetrating Blairsville's high-pressure press coverage, which lead to numerous quick baskets by the Bobcats.
“With them not having Maddy, that makes it really rough,” Blairsville coach Ralph McGinnis said. “That makes a big difference in how they do things. I think when she comes back they'll be fine and play with a lot more confidence.”
Blairsville received dynamite guard play by senior Mackenzie Livingston, who finished with a game-high 19 points, and point guard Laurel O'Barto (15). Sophomore forward Chelsey Koren finished with 16 points.
“Those three are quite a trio,” McGinnis said. “They get out ahead of everybody and defensively just really jump on you. They're so quick, and then in transition, Chelsey comes flying down as a trailer. They really press the ball and work well together.”
On the night, Blairsville shot 24 for 45 from the floor and held Ligonier Valley to just 9 of 36. The Rams also went 0 for 11 on 3-point attempts.
“We just ran into a superior team tonight,” Ligonier Valley coach Paul Dominic said. “I thought we could still play well tonight with not having our regular starting five. They are capable of it, but it just wasn't there tonight. Blairsville is a tremendous team. They just are very good at passing, executing plays and finishing. It really dictates their success. They are really representing our conference well.”
The win sets up a showdown Monday night between Blairsville and Marion Center (6-0, 8-3).
“We haven't played in a week,” McGinnis said. “We had a lot of turnovers tonight and our timing was just a half step behind. We missed a lot of layups, too. Those are things we don't usually do, but I can attribute that to the layoff. We still have some work to do before next week, but overall I think we'll be fine. It's going to be a big game for us up there (at Marion Center).”
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.