Ligonier Valley girls enter state basketball playoffs
After being down by double-digits, the Ligonier Valley Rams girls basketball team fought back in the final quarter of the District 5⁄6/8 Class AAA championship game against the Forest Hills Rangers, but ultimately fell short, 56-48.
The championship game was played March 2 at St. Francis University between the top-seeded Rangers and second-seeded Rams, both of which had earned byes to the semifinals and then won their semifinal games earlier in the week.
The championship game was fast-paced and well-played early on. Forest Hills led after one period, 14-11. Four of the five starters for Ligonier Valley scored in the first quarter, topped by five points from senior guard Maddy Grimm.
The Rams upped their output to 12 points in the second quarter, again led by five points from Grimm. But the Rangers picked up their pace even more, scoring 19, and took a 10-point lead at halftime, 33-23.
In the third period, Forest Hills pulled further ahead, giving the Rangers a lead that Ligonier Valley could not overcome. The Rams scored nine in the quarter, including a three-pointer from Taylor Rudnik. Forest Hills was up 47-32 after three periods of play.
Ligonier Valley outscored the Rangers in the final quarter, with 16 points for the Rams to nine for Forest Hills. Ligonier Valley was paced in that period by five points from Stephanie Heming. Though the Rams closed the gap by seven points, Ligonier Valley still fell by a final score of 56-48.
Grimm was top scorer for the Rams, with 17 points. She also had seven rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and two steals. Heming also hit double digits with 10 points.
Rudnik scored eight points in all. Kyra Ludwig totaled five points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Madison McLaughlin, Amanda Ross and Kari Kuhn rounded out the scoring totals for Ligonier Valley.
The Rams are now 16-7 overall and move to the PIAA Class AAA state championship tournament as the District 5⁄6/8 runner-up, 6-2. A total of 32 teams compete in the first round.
Ligonier Valley faced the Franklin Knights. The Knights, with a 24-1 overall record, are the District 10 champion, 10-1. The first round game between the Rams and Franklin was played March 9 at Slippery Rock University. The winner of the game moved on to the round-of-16 and will play the winner of two WPIAL teams, Elizabeth Forward, 7-2 and Central Valley, 7-6.
Doug Kurtz is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.