By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
The Girard and Pymatuning Valley boys basketball found themselves in what amounted to an archery contest at the end of their contest Tuesday night at Pymatuning Valley. The Indians got the better of it in a 75-66 non-conference victory.
Trailing, 46-45, entering the fourth quarter, Girard (12-5, 6-2 in All American Conference) used the strength of the 3-point basket and free throws to finally take a 63-60 lead with just over two minutes left to play that they held on to to claim the win. Dylan O’Hara’s 3-pointer was the tie breaker after a Tim Cross free throw knotted the score at 60-60.
From there on to the final horn, free throws for both teams dragged the outcome toward conclusion, and the Indians pulled away.
They hit on 18 of 23 free throws in a 30-point fourth quarter. The Lakers (12-4, 7-2 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) also did some damage in the last period from the foul line, but not enough. Their fourth stanza also produced their only misses from the line in the game as they went 10 of 16 in the period and 16 of 22 for the game. Girard finished 21 of 28.
“We had really good balance in scoring tonight,” Girard coach Craig Hannon said. “We’ve had good balance all season, but it’s nice to have a big time scorer like Craig (Randall) as well. A key part of his game is that he is willing to pass to his teammates whenever he can.
“He has tons of talent to build around and the kids can all do a lot to help us out. We were missing a starter tonight, so our depth, which normally lets us go eight or nine players deep, and kept us with a seven-man rotation tonight. The balance was good and is a testimonial for our kids. They all can step up when they have to.”
Randall, who earlier this season torched Jefferson for 41 points and can score from about anywhere on the floor, was shadowed by several Lakers for much of the night. Being forced to get rid of the ball often, he still managed to put home 25 points on 9-20 shooting while dishing out five assists.
The game got off to a big start for the Indians as Jim Standohar hit three straight shots early and O’Hara nailed three in a row coming off the bench late as Girard took an 18-12 lead after one quarter.
“Foul trouble hurt us tonight and offensive rebounding hurt us tonight,” PV coach Ryan Fitch said. “We just didn’t get to the glass tonight, and that just won’t cut it.”
The primary cause of that feeling came from Girard’s Evan Standohar. As one of five Indians who scored, all in double figures, Standohar also dominated the backboards. While final totals showed only a two rebound difference, Standohar snared 15 overall, including nine on the defensive end, effectively halting second chance shots for the Lakers. PV’s seven offensive rebounds were well scattered, scuttling any big scoring runs.
“I thought Grant Nowakowski did an outstanding job on Randall tonight,” Fitch said. “Craig is an outstanding player, probably the best we will see all year. He’s just a really good athlete, and Standohar crashed the boards with great intensity tonight. He knows his role on that team.”
Randall led the Indians with his 25 markers, Jake Ryser came off the bench to tally 14, each of the Standohar brothers added 13, and O’Hara finished with 10 to account for all the Girard points.
The Lakers also played a solid game with balanced scoring, but that fourth period was the difference.
Quintin Ratliff had a tough night from the floor but still ended up with 20 points to pace PV. The Lakers were tough from beyond the arc, netting 10 treys. Austin Nowakowski hit five bombs for 15 points, brother Grant added a pair of 3-pointers for 12 points, Tim Cross tallied 15 before fouling out with just over half a minute to play, and it all came down to making foul shots, something both teams practice a lot. Usually, successfully.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.