By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Pymatuning Valley senior Heather Brant doesn’t generally take jump shots. That just isn’t her game. She stepped outside of her comfort zone and delivered twice to spur the Lakers past Brookfield, 39-31, Monday night at PV.
Down a point, 24-23, to open the fourth quarter, Megan Stech passed to Brant, who knocked down a jumper from the corner. Less than a minute and a half later, Kelsea Brown hit Brant, who tallied from the same exact spot to give the Lakers (19-2, 9-2 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) the lead for the final time.
“That’s the only game in my high school career I had two jumpers,” Brant said. “Usually, I might have one.
“We were losing and I was open.”
At that point, the Lakers lead, 27-26, with 5:43 to play.
“(Brant) hit two from the corner, we were a little late rotating,” Brookfield coach Shawn Hammond said. “She hit two shots late and that’s when they got going.”
Those were the last points PV scored from anywhere but the foul line. They were 10 of 10 from the line in the final 4:42 to seal the win.
The Lakers were 17 of 25 (68 percent) from the line in the contest while the Warriors were 7 of 12 (58.3 percent).
“Our goal is make more (free throws) than the other team takes,” PV coach Jeff Compan said. “That’s a written rule on our board before every game. We were something like 13 of 14 or 13 of 13 in the second half.”
“That’s it,” Hammond said. “We didn’t even get a one-and-one and we put them in a double bonus.
“They made them. I don’t remember them missing too many, or if they did.”
Brant and Brown were both 4 of 4 from the line during that final stretch.
“We had the lead and we had three straight turnovers,” Hammond said. “When somebody gets a run, you’ve got to weather the storm and we didn’t weather the storm. We put them on the line and gave them a couple freebies.”
It’s the third straight year and the fourth in the last five that Compan’s Lakers have won at least 19 games and the win came against a good opponent at the right time.
“I told the girls that was a great game to play before the tournament,” Compan said. “They had to overcome adversity. They didn’t play well and they found a way to win. That was a nice game to have heading into the tournament.”
PV took a 17-9 halftime lead, in part because they made the Warriors (9-10) work so hard to get open, they didn’t have the legs to take a strong enough shot.
Brookfield answered in the third, however, with a 10-1 run to close the period and take a 24-23 lead through three quarters.
“It was a sloppy game,” Compan said. “Credit their defense. That’s the best defensive team we’ve played this year by a ton. Their guards control the ball. They’d make eight or nine passes and lulled the tempo.
“They got us to play their style.
“They were pushing us out a little bit up top,” Hammond said. “We started going to the baseline and getting buckets. We had a nice run to take the lead. We were able to get the ball inside.
“You’ve got to be able to play full-court with them. If they’re going to push you out, you’ve got to get going downhill and go with it.”
Brant led all scorers with 16 points and was 8 of 9 from the line.
“Usually, I’m really off or I have a really good game,” Brant said. “I’m at about 70 percent (from the line) for the year.”
Brown added nine, Geena Gabriel had eight and Megan Stech had six to go with 17 rebounds.
“(Stech) was really important because a lot of the time, we were struggling to get rebounds.”
Ashley Kirila netted 11 points and eight boards to lead Brookfield.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.