By MATT WAGNER
For the Star Beacon
The old saying goes that you live and die by the 3-pointer. In the case of Pymatuning Valley on Friday night, the Lakers lived by it.
The Lakers drained nine 3-pointers, seven of which came in the first half alone, en route to a 78-47 rout of Southington.
“Our five starters played really well tonight,” Laker coach Ryan Fitch said. “They came out and got right after it. You say we live and die by the (3-pointer), and we do. That’s our style of play. If they go in, we’re going to look good. If they don’t, we’re not going to look so good.”
The Lakers (2-0) started the aerial bombardment early in the game, mostly through the hot hand of Austin Nowakowski.
The 5-foot-8-inch guard knocked down three 3-pointers in the first quarter alone and started making his first four attempts from beyond the arc.
Nowakowski slowed down after that, not scoring another point, but he tied his mark from the one he set from the team’s opener against Conneaut.
“My role on this team is just to shoot 3’s,” Nowakowski said. “I give credit to (my teammates) for driving and then kicking it (out to me). Once I get on fire, I get the edge that I get to keep on shooting. I don’t get down on myself, so I just keep going.”
Overall, the Lakers went 7-11 from beyond the arc, which forced the Wildcats (0-4) to switch from a zone to a man defense.
Pymatuning Valley took advantage of the switch, attacking the lane and going for more high percentage shots. This style suited starting guard Quintin Ratliff, who finished with game-highs in points (18) and assists (5).
He wasn’t the Pymatuning Valley player to benefit, as all five starters reached double figures. The Lakers spread the ball throughout the game, and the Wildcats couldn’t find an answer to stop them.
“It definitely spread out the floor because then they had to come out and contain us,” Ratliff said. “We can go one-on-one, but we hit the 3-pointers, which opened up the dribble-drive.”
Southington coach Mike Karr’s young squad found itself in a hole early, and with the 3-point barrage from the Lakers, Karr had no choice to change the defense.
Karr said that he originally employed the zone because his team struggled in the post so far this season. He wanted to help the Wildcats gain some confidence, as they have only two returning letterman and have three freshmen playing regular minutes.
“We wanted to contest the (3-pointers), but we had been getting hurt inside so much in the first three games,” he said. “I thought we did a good job of maintaining that interior, and (the Lakers) got hot. That’s tough to recover from that — especially with a young team.”
Wagner is a sports writer for the (Warren) Tribune Chronicle.