The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 3, 2014

Silencing the critics

PV proves doubters wrong, defeats Lakeview in battle of unbeatens

For the Star Beacon

ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — Despite battling through its first 15 contests unscathed and ranked second in the Associated Press Division III poll, the Pymatuning Valley girls basketball team was hearing whispers that it wasn’t as good as its record indicated. After dropping visiting Lakeview, 55-54, Saturday afternoon in a battle of unbeatens, the Lakers may have hushed their critics.

“We talked about it before the game,” PV coach Jeff Compan said. “This was respect for the Northeastern Athletic Conference and respect for ourselves. People thought we were going to get dusted and then they could say our league is no good.

“We have a solid schedule and a good league. We have a great group of girls this year.”

“This game meant a lot to us,” PV junior post Kelsea Brown said. “We were both undefeated teams. This was a big game. (Lakeview) had said in the (Warren Tribune Chronicle) it’s quest was to be 22-0.

“Now, it’s our quest to be 22-0.”

“It feels great to win,” PV senior point guard Geena Gabriel said. “We want to keep it rolling. We all played well and I’m glad we could get the W.”

The Lakers (16-0, 8-0 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) held a 47-41 advantage through three periods, but the Bulldogs (17-1, 9-0 in All-American Conference) erased it by scoring the first 7 points of the fourth quarter to take a 48-47 lead with 6:02 remaining. Following a bucket from Addison Becker, Lakeview led 54-51 with exactly 2 minutes remaining.

Brown got the Lakers within 1, 54-53, after knocking down a pair of free throws with 47.6 ticks left, putting the pressure solidly on the Bulldogs’ shoulders. Lakeview broke the press, but threw the ball away under the basket giving possession back to the Lakers.

Abby Hamilton’s 3-point attempt from the corner was off target, but Megan Stech was there for the rebound and the putback to give PV the lead with 29 seconds to go.

“I was just thinking about boxing out, getting the rebound and putting it back up,” Stech said. “In the heat of the moment, you just know what you’ve got to do and do it.”

Lakeview struggled on the next few possessions and after turning the ball over with 2.5 seconds to play, the Lakers had the victory in hand.

“We haven’t been in that situation all year,” Lakeview coach Adam Lewis said. “Neither has PV. They did what they had to do down the stretch. We didn’t. I’m disappointed. I’m not disappointed in my team, I’m just disappointed.

“I feel PV was prepared and we weren’t. I take a lot of responsibility for this one.”

The Bulldogs took control early using a 14-0 run that spanned 2 minutes late in the first period. Pavlik scored half of those points as her team built an 18-6 advantage with 1:20 remaining in the opening period.

“We had an opportunity to really open things up in the first half,” Lewis said. “Things didn’t go our way and we let that bother us. We were frustrated.

“We have some things we always like to do and PV took those things away from us.”

The triumvirate of Brown, Stech and Gabriel cut that deficit in half by the time the horn sounded for the end of the quarter. Stech scored on a feed from Gabriel, Gabriel made a steal and drove in for a layup and Brown drove in for her own layup as the Lakers trailed just 18-12 to open the second period.

“I think the biggest part of the game was when we were up, 6-4, and we missed two layups to make it 8-4,” Compan said. “They ran the next 14 points. We called a timeout. We were all looking at each other. I said (Lakeview) had thrown the first punch. I asked them if were going to crumble or were we going to come back fighting.

“The rest of the quarter was huge. We were back within 6, so it wasn’t like we were getting dusted.”

Lakeview scored the first four points of the second period to go up 22-12 with 6:56 to play in the half, but over a span of more than five minutes, the Lakers methodically wiped out the deficit and actually took a 27-26 lead with 1:29 to go in outscoring the Bulldogs, 15-4.

Addison Becker scored on a putback just in front of the buzzer to send the teams into the locker rooms with Lakeview in front, 28-27.

“We talked at the half about how were up 1 and we turned it over with about 20 seconds to go,” Compan said. “They went down and missed three or four shots and eventually got the putback. We told them if they scrapped, it would go right down to the wire.

“We talked about how every single little thing was important, whether it was helping on defense, taking an extra step for a rebound or driving strong to the hoop. We did a nice job of taking care of the little things the whole game.”

The Lakers plugged away through the majority of the third period and led, 39-32, following Brown’s jumper from the wing with 3:48 left in the third.

“I was almost starting to feel comfortable when we were up 7,” Compan said. “We had some bad possessions there (early in the fourth) when we had pulled Kelsea to give her a rest.”

Stech led the way with 21 points and 13 rebounds, 2 steals and a block, Brown netted 20 points, 4 boards, 3 steals and 4 blocks. Gabriel came up with 8 points, 6 assists, 5 steals and a block and Abby Hamilton checked in with 6 points, 2 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

Pavlik paced the Bulldogs with 16 points while Becker had 12 points and 12 boards and Callie Schmitt, though limited most of the game with foul trouble, added 12 points.

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.