By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Still new to the area, first-year Grand Valley boys basketball coach Matt Brumit admits he didn’t think much about Friday’s game with heated rival Pymatuning Valley.
“They razzed me because I’m new to the area, I don’t care about the rivalry thing,” Brumit admitted.
That opinion was changed when the final horn blew at Grand Valley and his Mustangs took home a thrilling 65-62 win over the Lakers.
“As soon as I got into the locker room, they asked what I thought (of the rivalry now) and I said, ‘I get it, I get it,’ ” he said. “Both teams just battled and played their butts off. It was fun. With the background I have in sports (as a minor league baseball pitcher), I feel like I just got done pitching. I felt like I was done in the ninth inning it was the equivalent to that feeling.
“It’s awesome, it’s an awesome feeling.”
After Quintin Ratliff put the Lakers (3-4, 1-2 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) up 62-61 with a minute and a half remaining, Matt Larned hit a pair of free throws to put the Mustangs up 63-62.
The Lakers came down on the ensuing possession and Gabe Kovats and Jake Vormelker blocked consecutive PV shots.
Vormelker snagged the rebound and was fouled, hitting a pair of free throws with 8.9 seconds remaining to put GV (2-4, 1-2) up, 65-62.
Ratliff was able to get off a decent look at a 3 as time expired but it banged off the back of the inside of the rim and fell harmlessly to the ground, sealing the win for GV.
“It wasn’t about the last minute, it was about a series of four quarters leading up to that,” first-year Lakers coach Ryan Shontz said. “We just didn’t shoot well, we didn’t rebound very well, let them hang around, let them hang around and didn’t put them away when we had the chance.”
PV did have opportunities to take control of the game throughout.
The Lakers started on an 8-0 run to open the game but the Mustangs responded with an 8-0 run of their own.
PV took a 28-27 lead into the half after Ratliff, who scored a game-high 25 points, hit a jumper at the buzzer.
Going into the half, Grand Valley’s leading man, Jake Vormelker had been held to just two points.
“We talked and I told him I said, ‘You keep running the offense, this is your half, let’s go get it.’” Brumit said. “And he did. He made great shots and he made great passes at times when he needed to make passes. He took quality shots, I think it was quality over quantity for him tonight.”
Vormelker scored 20 of his 22 in the second half and had a dominate stretch to open the third period. After a Chase Thurber (19 points) triple put PV up 35-33, Vormelker ran off eight-straight points including a 3 well beyond the arc, giving his Mustangs up 41-35.
Shontz said he felt his team wore down a bit, particularly coming off a significant win over Edgewood on Tuesday.
“It’s fatigue a little bit, we had a big game Tuesday, and went hard for a couple days and it was a little bit of a let down for them,” he said. “Quintin did a heck of a job on him (Vormelker) all night but it takes a lot out of him to shut him down and do what he has to do offensively.”
Ratliff hit a bucket at the end of the third to give the Lakers a one-point lead going into the fourth.
“He’s gotta be superman for us every night, we put a lot on his shoulders,” Shontz said of Ratliff. “Any normal human, they just wear out and you just wear out after a while. That’s something I have to look at myself, maybe not ask so much of him but he’s a heck of a player.”
The teams went back and forth in the final period, Thurber scored eight of his 19 in the final frame while Vormelker answered back with eight of his 22.
For Brumit, he was proud to see his team battle back from a deficit and win.
“I think, in all other previous games we’ve gotten down and I think that’s what I’m most excited about and proud about with the kids is that we got down and we didn’t quit,” he said. “They don’t quit, but they get that feeling of here we go again and they didn’t do that today. That’s what I want them to understand, they’re good enough to compete with every team we play.
“If we compete, these kids are grinders, if we compete early we can grind it out at the end cuz that’s the kind of kids they are.”