By ERIC FORTUNE
For the Star Beacon
\It didn’t look like the team that has continued to make teams play at their pace.
Instead, they were stymied into playing a style of play that the Brookfield Warriors like and if not for a lack of offense, the Warriors might have pulled off the mild upset instead of falling 43-35 to the Pymatuning Valley Lakers.
“Brookfield plays a specific style and if you can’t handle their style, it’s going to be a long night,” Jeff Compan said. “They are very physical and very methodical. They are good at what they do. We knew it was going to be a dogfight.
“We told them that they couldn’t relax because it would probably come down to the buzzer. I’m proud of how we hung in there and how we got stops when we needed them. That was a fun game to be involved in.
“Whenever we play Brookfield, it is down to the wire. They are very good at playing their style of basketball. We don’t play that pace and style a lot. This was a real quality win for us.”
After a stagnant first quarter from both squads, and the Lakers (13-0, 6-0 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) clinging to an early 7-6 advantage, Kelsea Brown started to build some separation with her physical inside play.
“We had a hard time,” Brookfield coach Shawn Hammond said. “We were out of sync and just watching too much. We were stagnant on offense. Once, we started moving it, we were able to get some backdoor stuff, but we didn’t convert in the first half.”
Brown scored nine of her 15 points in this frame with her steal and bucket before the end of the half being the momentum Pymatuning Valley needed leading 20-13 at the break.
It helped make up for a first quarter where the Lakers uncharacteristically had five turnovers and had just six field goal attempts.
The Lakers put the ball up more in the second quarter. While the shooting didn’t improve much, they were able to cut down on their mistakes, create eight turnovers the way of the Warriors (10-4) and get to the charity stripe to build out their advantage despite some obvious rough sledding.
“Usually for us, we get a lot of flow from our pressure,” Compan said. “Even when we got steals, they did a good job of fouling us or knocking the ball out of bounds. So, we never really got into the up-and-down flow of the
game. We said to win, we were going to have to beat them at their style.”
So, in that third quarter, it seemed the Lakers had done just that holding Brookfield scoreless for the six minutes of the quarter, while making some buckets and shooting 50 percent from the free throw line.
Leading, 30-18 going into the final quarter, it seemed to any casual observer that the game might have been decided.
Don’t tell that to Compan who felt a run was coming. He just wanted to make sure his team would be able to stop it.
“We talked in between the third and fourth quarter that we had gotten a lead, we knew they that they could make a run,” Compan said. “It was inevitable. We talked about doing something to stop the run, whether it be a foul shot or a bucket — anything not to see the lead fully disappear.”
After Geena Gabriel (15 points) made both of her free throws at the 7:07 mark, the Warriors sped the game up as Ashley Kirila (14 points) scored the next six points for the Warriors and overall 11 of Brookfield’s 17 fourth quarter points.
Though every time, the Warriors looked poised to fully steal momentum away from the Lakers, Gabriel and Brown were huge on the other end driving to the bucket and either making the layup or getting to the line.
“We cut the lead there,” Hammond said. “Once we got it within five, something just took our momentum. Gabriel and Brown just came down and bullied her way in there and it just took the wind out of us.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.