By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Champion girls basketball coach Jeff Thompson was looking for something from his team Monday night at Pymatuning Valley. Unfortunately, what he was looking for — and got — from the Golden Flashes played right into Pymatuning Valley’s hands in the Lakers’ 54-26 non-conference victory.
As is always the case, the Lakers (10-0, 4-0 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) were trying to push the tempo. Champion did its best to match PV’s pace, but eventually fell behind.
“Actually, I thought (the Golden Flashes) were quicker than we were,” PV coach Jeff Compan said. “They were more aggressive. Like last week, we got off to a slow start. Once the shots started falling and the defensive intensity picked up a little bit, it was much better (for us).
“We like to play at that frantic pace. We seem to find the open lanes.”
Champion (4-7, 1-3 in All-American Conference) scored the first 4 points of the contest behind buckets from Izzy Purso and Kelly Robinson. The Lakers answered with the next 6 points as Kelsea Brown drove the lane from the top of the key twice and Geena Gabriel scored the same way.
Robinson’s 3-pointer from the wing put Champion up, 7-6, with 2:58 to go in the opening period, but that lead lasted just 17 seconds as Brown knotted the score at 7-7 with a free throw. The Lakers never again relinquished control.
Pymatuning Valley scored the last 7 points of the quarter as part of an 11-2 run that had it ahead, 17-9, with 5:32 remaining in the half.
“We didn’t want to play at that pace,” Thompson said. “We knew coming in they were one of the better teams we’d face. We had not been playing well or with a lot of energy. We weren’t focused on the score.
“The focus of our game was to play with energy.”
Purso and Brittany Allen scored within 14 seconds of each other to get Champion within four, 17-13, with 3:51 left in the half, but Megan Stech tallied 5 points and Brown had 4 more as the Lakers went into the break up 27-13.
“I thought being down just 14 points to that team at the half was pretty good for us,” Thompson said. “I was happy with our energy and focus in the first half.
“As young as we are (3 freshmen started), we just wanted to compete tonight. The girls gave the effort. I can build on effort.”
PV outscored the Golden Flashes, 20-5, in the third period to put the game away.
With Champion playing man-to-man defense, the Lakers looked to attack by driving the lane with whoever had the ball and an opening.
“They were coming out on us in man-to-man and they were switching a lot,” Compan said. “We wanted to attack off the switches. We thought if we had momentum off the picks, we could run by them or it would open up the pass for the roll girl.”
Brown netted 20 points, the bulk of which came off the drive or a version of the pick and roll while Gabriel scored 13 points and had 6 assists
“That’s our offense,” Gabriel said. “That’s what starts off our offense, then we pass it out or score.
“We run our offense off driving to the hoop.”
“That’s just one of our plays,” Brown added. “It’s a different offense we have where I start high instead of low. I can’t be down low and drive in.”
Stech tallied 13 points and 14 boards.
Purso led Champion with 11 points and 7 rebounds.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.