By JOHN VARGO
For the Star Beacon
Lucas Strohm saw the state of Ohio plaque on the wall inside the Bristol High School gymnasium.
The 1995 Bristol graduate knew all about the pressure defense and intensity that emanates from the tight confines inside the Panthers gym.
Oh, and there’s the No. 4-ranking in Division IV.
Strohm didn’t come back for a visit. He’s the coach of the Grand Valley Mustangs.
“We knew coming in they were going to look to pressure the ball fullcourt,” Strohm said after Bristol’s 76-63 victory. “We worked hard this week on handling that pressure. We did all that we could to control the tempo of the game. I thought we did a good job of that in the first quarter and half. The last of the second quarter is where we ended up losing the game. We got caught in their tempo, had some missed shots and they capitalized on them.”
Bristol shot 7 of 33 to start the game, including going 0 of 10 to start the second quarter.
However, Johnny Simcox’s bucket with 3:33 left before halftime was Bristol’s first field goal of the second quarter, giving Bristol a 20-17 lead. It was the start of a 10-0 run.
“We do a lot of competition shooting, trying to put some pressure on the guys as they are taking shots,” said Bristol coach Craig Giesy, whose team shot 29 of 79 from the floor and 3 of 22 from 3-point range. “We try to shoot game shots as much as possible. It’s a battle for every team to shoot game shots at game speed. That’s something we’re trying to do as we go along.
“... I heard Bobby Knight speak this summer. He said pick one or two things to be really good at. That’s what we’re trying to do, which is our pressure defense and getting the ball up and down the floor.”
Chad Oliver, who had 24 points and was 11 of 14 from the foul line, was 8 of 8 from the stripe in the second quarter.
“He’s struggled at the beginning of the season,” Giesy said. “He’s picking it up gradually. He’s had few games he’s shot like that. In practice, he’s a 75-80 percent foul shooter.”
Bristol (14-0, 7-0 Northeastern Athletic Conference) found its mojo in the third quarter, with Oliver on the bench.
Zak Dibell, who had nine points, and Logan Koeth, who added 10, accounted for Bristol’s first five baskets to give Bristol a 47-41 edge.
Then, Brandon Lee, who had a two-pointer and a 3, pushed the lead to 52-44.
In the final minute, Lee passed to Oliver, who came off the bench in the final minute of the third, and promptly hit a 3.
Grand Valley held a 40-39 rebounding edge with Jake Vormelker having 11 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Josh Kovats had 13 points, while Gabe Kovats added 10. Stanley Sirrine added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
“He had a really good game,” Giesy said of Vormelker.
The Mustangs (2-10, 2-5) took one last shot at the Panthers as Vormelker’s putback cut the Bristol lead to 65-61. Grand Valley, which shot 26 of 59 from the field, could get no closer.
“I have very happy with the intensity and heart they came out with,” said Strohm, whose team shot 2 of 16 from 3-point range. “We challenged them before the game to not let anyone play harder than them. They came out and stepped to the challenge of trying to take down the lone, undefeated team in the area.
“I’m very happy of the way my guys played. A couple of those 3s go down that didn’t go down and it’s a different story.”