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Ligonier's new coach looks forward to winning season

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 7:32 p.m.
Bill Pribisco | for the Ligonier Echo
The Ligonier Valley High School boys basketball team are first row (from left) Kyle Lundquist, Trent Hepner, Josh Boyd, Trent Stewart, Austin Williams and John Wallace; second row, Nate Mattis, Justin Hugo, Al Vigilotti, David King, Dominic Jester, Jake Schott, Brian Custer and Tanner Solich; third row, Luke Smetak, Jordan Jones, Calin Gropp, Alex Tutino, Jake Nemeth, Scott Fennell, Billy Turley, Collin Smith, Tyler Turcheck and Ryan Fitzgibbon. Absent is Alec Bloom and Todd Hepner, head coach. Taken on 11/19/2013 at Ligonier high school

The Ligonier Valley High School boys basketball team begins the 2013-14 season on Dec. 6 and 7 at the Pine Grill Roundball Tournament in Somerset. The Rams will open 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at home taking on Homer Center. Head Coach Todd Hepner said that Homer Center would be one of the toughest opponents of the season.

Last year Ligonier fell twice to Homer Center, which brought the team's conference record to 11-5. The Rams also made it to the semifinal round of the District 6 playoffs, falling to second-seeded Penn Cambria. This year Hepner plans to continue to be competitive in the conference with the hopes of raising a title banner and returning to the playoffs.

“It's a great conference for basketball,” Hepner said. “I don't think there is truly a weak team in the Heritage Conference. I think in the Heritage, any given night anybody can beat anybody so you need to be ready to play basketball.”

This season Hepner has 25 players on the team. The seniors include Alex Tutino, Jake Nemeth, Scott Fennell and Alec Bloom. Juniors are Justin Hugo, Jordan Jones, Ryan Fitzgibbon, Calin Gropp, Luke Smetak, Nate Mattis and Billy Turley. The sophomore group includes Austin Williams, Kyle Lundquist, J.D. Wallace, Tyler Turcheck, David King, Al Viglioti, Tanner Solich, Jack Schott, Brian Custer and Bominic Jester. The freshmen are Collin Smith, Trent Hepner, Josh Boyd and Trent Stewart.

Last season the Rams played the majority of the time on the perimeter of the court, shooting for 3-point shots. However, Hepner plans to use the team's speed, moving the ball quickly to keep opponents off balance as well as play to the team's strength.

“Offensively I like to run motion-type plays where we get all the guys moving,” Hepner explained. “There is not going to be a lot of standing around at the 3-point line looking for shots out there. I like to keep things moving and keep the ball moving and take our chances that way. I think definitely speed is one of the factors that is going to play to our advantage. With our speed I feel we can get out on the transition game and make some things happen that way.”

Though it is Hepner's first year as Ligonier's head coach, he has 16 years of coaching experience, including five years as the varsity coach at Laurel Valley before the two schools merged in 2010. Hepner was a volunteer coach for the junior high school team in Ligonier last year and is excited about stepping back into coaching at the varsity level.

“It's nice to be back into coaching and I'm looking forward to the opportunity that I have to coach young individuals. I think it's important to spend some time with them and get to know them. Even though it's a different school, it's our sister school to where I came from, so it is still kind of the same school. I'm glad to be part of the Ligonier program and I'm going to do my best to ensure quality in the program,” Hepner said.

Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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