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Mount Union stumbles in second quarter

Trojans lacked momentum in district semifinal

Sentinel photo by TAMI KNOPSNYDER
Mount Union’s Daunte Martin, left, and Ligonier Valley’s Michael Marinchak go up for a rebound during the second half of their District 6 Class 3A semifinal game Monday in Hollidaysburg.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — In what started as a promising feature game for a District 6 Class 3A boys basketball semifinal, Mount Union found itself struggling in the middle periods.

Ligonier Valley took advantage of being able to dominate the boards and speed the game up to defeat the Trojans, 72-54, Monday night in Hollidaysburg.

Mount Union (14-10) is still alive in the playoffs — in fact, the Trojans were guaranteed a state game coming into the semis — and will play Central Cambria, a 65-53 victim of Richland, Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.

“They had us beat on the floor, basically,” Mount Union coach Scott McClain said. “We played decent up zone in the first quarter, but we weren’t rebounding out of it. They beat us after our second and third chances and then started beating us down the floor, got a lead, and once they got a lead, they came out of the zone and you can tell they wanted to play man and speed the game up.”

The Trojans were held to just two points in the entirety of the second quarter, and from the final minutes of the first until halftime, the Rams had themselves a 22-7 run to build a 16-point lead going into the locker room.

Mount Union had plenty of rebounds itself — often getting a large number of second and third opportunities — but just couldn’t sink shots or put together a run and sustain it until midway through the third quarter.

By the time the Trojans got their best run — a 10-0 drive — in the final minutes of the third, it was far too late.

“That run in the second quarter killed us,” McClain said. “In the third quarter, we were able to get on a little bit of a run and get back into it and make it a little more manageable there. But every time we inched closer, we just couldn’t get over the top.”

The team relied heavily on 3-pointers, many of them deep because the Rams were playing such quality man defense.

“That’s basically what we pretty much had to do,” McClain said. “Once we got down by 20, I said ‘We’ve got to penetrate. We can’t get down anymore and we need to sustain some runs.’ Which we did get some runs, but we just didn’t make any stops.”

The Trojans sank 11 3-pointers in the contest with eight of them falling in the final two frames.

Daunte Martin accounted for six of the Trojans’ 3-point goals — five of them in the second half. He finished with a team-high 25 points.

Mykell Smith also had a strong offensive performance for Mount Union, finishing with 14 points, scoring seven in each half and draining a trio of shots from beyond the arc.

Dylan Gearhart rounded out the team’s double-digit scorers. He finished with 10.

As for Ligonier Valley, it seemingly could do no wrong for much of the game.

Michael Marinchak first gave the Trojan defense fits by creating his own scoring opportunities — no matter how many Trojans surrounded him — using great ball control and slick moves.

Marinchak scored 21 points in the contest with 12 of them coming in the first half alone.

Then the Rams, primarily Marreck Paola, took advantage of the gaps the Trojans let up having to play man, especially under the basket.

Paola had himself a night, scoring a game-high 31 points. He had 11 field goals — all layups — and was often fouled, going to the line on six different occasions. He went 9-for-11 there.

He also played the entire game, having one foul to his name and he came up with at least a dozen defensive rebounds, adding havoc for the Trojans on both sides of the court.

“He didn’t really beat us much until the second half when he got most of his points (21),” McClain said. “We kind of took him off the boards in the first half, but in the second half, with us having to go man, he was just too much.”

McClain says Monday’s game came to direction.

“They’re disciplined and we’re not as disciplined,” he said. “Mentally, we weren’t tough enough in the second quarter and I think that was the biggest part of the whole game, our mental toughness wasn’t there. That’s been our problem all year.”

Ligonier Valley 72, Mount Union 54

MOUNT UNION

Quinton Posey 8 3-4 25, River Terry 1 0-0 2, Peyton McClain 1 0-0 3, Mykell Smith 4 3-6 14, Dylan Gearhart 3 3-6 10. Totals: 17 9-16 54.

3-point goals: Posey 6, McClain, Smith 3, Gearhart.

Did not score: Seth Smith, Tyreek Seacrest, Kobe Hand, Daunte Martin.

LIGONIER VALLEY

Aaron Tutino 2 0-1 4, Jaxon Ludwig 1 0-0 3, Jackson Daugherty 7 5-7 21, Andrew Pleskovich 3 0-0 6, Marreck Paola 11 9-11 31. Totals: 25 18-23 72.

3-point goals: Ludwig, Daugherty, Marinchak.

Score by quarters

Mount Union 17-2-17-18 – 54

Ligonier Valley 22-13-21-16 – 72

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