EBENSBURG — Ligonier Valley learned a valuable lesson Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, it cost the Mounties a chance at winning its first District 6 Class AA boys basketball title.
Ligonier Valley failed to put Bellwood-Antis away in the final seconds of regulation and in overtime, and dropped a heart-breaking 62-60 decision in a semifinal-round game at Central Cambria High School.
The Mounties, who fell to 23-3, didn’t hit their free throws down the stretch and committed fouls that allowed Bellwood-Antis to rally.
“We had this game won three times,” Ligonier Valley coach Kurt Mattern said. “We missed foul shots and fouled them when we told them not to foul. We fell a sleep mentally a couple of times.”
Ligonier Valley was able to forge a 49-46 lead with 1:40 left in regulation when senior Chris Cowman, who scored 20 points, hit a basket and free throw.
The lead increased to 50-46 on a free throw by Jon-Michael Snoderly and then to 52-46 with 46 seconds left on a bucket by Adam Stinogle.
But Bellwood-Antis (22-4) refused to quit.
Ryan Myers, who finished with a game-high 23 points, nailed a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to cut the score to 52-49.
After Brock Weaver of Ligonier Valley missed the front end of a one-and-one with 29 seconds left, Nathan Carlson drove the lane, hit a basket and was fouled with 15 seconds left. The free throw tied the score at 52.
“The officials didn’t cost us the game, but I did question that call on Adam,” Mattern said. “Adam had his hands straight up, and the kid hit him. It was probably a no call.”
Ligonier Valley still had a chance to win the game, but Cowman’s shot from the corner bounced off the rim, and Daniel Knupp’s shot came after the buzzer.
“We just don’t know the meaning of quit,” Bellwood-Antis coach Tim Keech said. “It’s my job to keep them positive.
“We made a lot of key free throws. In big games, it comes down to stepping up and making them.”
Bellwood-Antis was 17 for 23 from the foul line, while Ligonier Valley was only 5 for 11.
In the overtime, Ligonier Valley assumed control early behind three baskets by Snoderly, who was in the game because of an ankle injury to Brian Fritz.
The Mounties led 58-54 with 1:42 left and maintained a 60-58 edge with 18 seconds left after Cowman’s free throw.
Bellwood-Antis then grabbed a 61-60 lead with 11 seconds left when Myers drove down the lane and scored. Snoderly fouled Myers on the play, and Myers hit the subsequent free throw.
Nick Boyd of Ligonier Valley sprinted down the and dished to Stinogle for an apparent bucket with :6 seconds left, but Boyd was called for an offensive charging foul, which disallowed the bucket.
Ricky Shannon was 1 for 4 during the final seconds for Bellwood-Antis, and Stinogle’s desperation shot at the buzzer fell short.
Stinogle finished 11 points, all in the second half.
Steve Crider scored 15 points, and Carlson added 11 for Bellwood-Antis.
“I thought Brian (Fritz) did a great job defensively on Myers,” Mattern said. “He was having a great game until he twisted his ankle.”
It was Cowman and Fritz who keyed a 14-0 run in the first quarter and helped Ligonier Valley sprint to a 16-4 lead.
The Mounties maintained their double-digit lead (27-15) until late in the first half when Bellwood-Antis went on a 6-0 run. Myers nailed a buzzer-beater to cut the Ligonier Valley lead to 27-21 at halftime.
Bellwood-Antis continued its comeback in the third quarter, using a 7-0 run to grab a 35-33 lead,
The two teams exchanged baskets the rest of the way. There were nine ties during the final 10 minutes of regulation.
Ligonier Valley still has a chance to qualify for the PIAA playoffs. The Mounties play Bishop Guilfoyle for third place Thursday at a site and time to be determined. Bellwood-Antis will play Mt. Union for the district title Friday or Saturday at St. Francis (Pa.)