Even playing them for the third time this season, Ligonier Valley still can’t solve the Marion Center Stingers.

Despite leading by as many as 13 in the third quarter, the Rams lost 55-49 to Marion Center in the District 6 Class AA championship game at St. Francis University Saturday night.

The Rams move on to play Windber, the District 5 winner, next week at a site and time to be determined in the PIAA playoffs.

Ligonier Valley (18-8) led

31-20 at the half, and led 35-22 in the third quarter, but Marion Center (24-1) stormed back, going on a 11-0 run to bring the score to 35-33 and took their first lead, 39-37, on a Nicole Miloser 3-point field goal with 1:31 left in the third quarter.

“They put that full-court pressure on us,” Ligonier Valley coach Paul Dominic said. “It’s just something we’re not used to playing. We have to get a little bit better at that.”

Marion Center turned to its strength – the 3-pointer – to take control of the game. The Stingers hit nine 3-pointers, including four by Miloser.

“If we can’t cover that, that’s their bread and butter,” Dominic said. “They won’t take anybody inside. They’re great outside shooters.”

Marion Center also turned to its experience as defending district champs.

“We got a steal. We got a bucket, and this team’s so experienced,” Marion Center coach Greg Lezanic said. “It was hard for Ligonier Valley to regain that momentum. … Toward the end, I think our experience is what got us over the hump.”

Ligonier Valley had a short- lived lead on the first possession of the fourth quarter, but Marion Center carried the momentum. After taking that initial lead, the Stingers outscored the Rams 16-12 leading them to the district title.

“Maybe we ran out of gas,” Dominic said.

Ligonier Valley won the opening tip and started the game on a 6-0 run before Bridget McClure hit the first of two free throws for Marion Center. Led by Maddy Grimm, who had seven points in the first quarter, the Rams led 17-8 at the end of the first period.

Marion Center went on a 7-2 run to start the second quarter, and cut Ligonier Valley’s lead to 19-15 with 6:33 left. And with Ligonier Valley leading 21-15, Grimm had three fouls, and the Rams needed a spark – getting it from Kristen Gabelt. Gabelt, who scored six in the quarter, then led the Rams on a 7-2 run to end the half as Ligonier garnered a 31-20 at the break.

“They wanted it more than we did,” Lezanic said. “They flat out beat us (in the first half). No question about it.”

Courtney Bridge and Grimm led the Rams with 16 points each. Amy Fairman had 21 for Marion Center and Miloser had 16.

Earlier in the season, Ligonier Valley lost to Marion Center

56-46 on Jan. 11 and 62-44 on Feb. 11.

“This was a much better game,” Dominic said. “The kids played their hearts out – both teams. My hat goes off to coach Greg. Their girls did a great job.”


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