By ANGELO VELOTTA
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
The Pymatuning Valley Lakers showed their resilience Tuesday night in defeating visiting Northeastern Athletic foe Maplewood, 44-41.
The Lakers (5-0, 3-0) had to battle from opening tip to final buzzer for the victory.
Maplewood (3-4, 2-1) had the just the right gameplan.
Right away, the Rockets challenged the Lakers by moving the ball in and out on offense constantly rotating the ball while waiting for the right shot.
In doing so, it was like playing defense as the Rockets kept the PV offense at bay with ball control.
Maplewood took a lead on a Nate Spitler 3 from the right wing to give the Rockets the lead, but the Lakers would retake the lead soon after at 42-41.
Pymatuning Valley then turned to a slower rotation of the ball, but turned it over. However, it took Maplewood more than two minutes to cause the miscue.
So as the minutes trickled from four remaining to just two, the Rockets still found themselves down A point, 42-41. With 45.9 seconds left, Ethan Obradovich helped keeped Maplewood on the offense end with three offensive rebounds, including two of his own shots, but the Rockets were unable to capitalize.
17.1 seconds left on the clock and the Lakers did a great job of holding onto the ball again for a lengthy period of time. After nothing came for Maplewood, Laker leader Tim Cross went to the line and swooshed two straight free throws to make the game 44-41 with 17.1 seconds to play.
“Cross is that type of kid, he’ll make clutch free throws,” PV coach Ryan Fitch said.
“(Maplewood) had a nice game, they coached a heck of a game. His kids did nice. Give credit to them.”
With the plan working, the Rockets jumped out to an early 6-0 lead on the road.
But the Lakers came back as Quintin Ratliff knocked home two threes from the top of the key to tie it up at 6-6 at the end of a very defensive first quarter of play.
“Quintin hit a few big shots, that was huge,” Fitch said. “He made big shots. We got more offensive flow.”
Ratliff continued to find a rhythm for the Lakers in the second period. He scored the first 11 points for the Lakers.
Despite the Lakers starting to crack Maplewood’s plans, the Rockets kept at it and the score was knotted, 19-19, at the break.
The Lakers won the third quarter, 17-15, giving them the 36-34 lead after three.
“Mainly our gameplan is that they have four good guards, run motion extremely well, so we wanted to slow down,” Maplewood coach Nathan Kish said. “We did a good job.
“(The Lakers) are very well coached, we competed, we are competing and making strides.”
Ratliff led the way for the Lakers with 22 points, including three 3s.
“It’s important for me to step up,” he said.
“Quintin made some big plays, Grant (Nowakowski) and Cross made some big plays, too,” Fitch said.
Cross had eight points and four reboundsand was 4-4 from the free-throw line.
Grant Nowakowski hit a late 3-pointer and Austin Nowakowski added two treys.
Spitler and Obradovich each scored nine for the Rockets.
Velotta is a freelance writer from Concord Township.