By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Take the ball to the hole and see what happens. The Pymatuning Valley girls basketball did just that in a Northeastern Athletic Conference clash with South County rival Grand Valley on Monday. The result was 25 free-throw attempts and a 62-52 Lakers’ victory.
“We were aggressive, tried to find driving lanes and tried to get to the basket,” PV coach Jeff Compan said. “We have such quick guards and we try to use them to our advantage.”
The Grand Valley defenders simply had trouble getting to the right spots at the times.
“We talked about getting to the pass quicker,” GV coach Kim Triskett said. “That’s been what we’ve stressed. Working and working to the ball in straight lines. If they move the basketball quickly, we have to get in position quickly.
“That said, you’re not going to get there every time.”
The Lakers (17-2, 10-2) made 80 percent (20) of those 25 charity tosses.
“Our three big scorers, Geena (Gabriel), Heather (Brant) and Kelsea (Brown) have made 60 to 70 percent for the season,” Compan said. “In a close game with the ball in their hands, we don’t get any empty trips (from the foul line).
“There’s nothing worse than getting to the line and going 0-2. That’s like giving points away. We try to get to the line more often than the other team and we try to make them.”
The Mustangs (13-8, 4-8) were perfect from the line, but going 8 of 8 just wasn’t going to cut it when compared to the Lakers’ performance.
“There’s nothing else to say,” Triskett said. “That’s where they beat us. We talked about it at the half. Their first four possession of the second half, we put them on the line. You can’t put good teams on the line and that’s what we did.”
After losing by 20, 56-36, the first time the teams met just a few weeks ago, Grand Valley showed up for “Pink Out 2013” and pushed the Lakers right from the opening tip.
“Our kids played with heart right from the beginning,” Triskett said. “First of all, this was quite an atmosphere. The first thing I said to them was to have fun out there and do the things you already know how to do. They played hard.
“There was no pressure. How often do you get to enjoy this (kind of atmosphere)? I told them to enjoy the arena and take it all in.”
“We knew they’d come out fired up and they did,” Compan said. “Kim had them ready to play. I called a couple of timeouts early to check our intensity level. Grand Valley was pesky. They wouldn’t go away.
“They kept hitting 3s and jumpers. Give them credit. They were ready to go tonight.”
Abby Paskey got the Mustangs to within a point, 41-40, with 40 seconds left in the third period, but Kelsea Brown netted six points and Michealia Skleres added all four of hers in the game as the Lakers expanded their advantage to 51-42 midway through the final quarter.
“I told Kelsea to just go score,” Compan said.
Jessica Vormelker stepped back and drilled a triple from the wing to cut the GV deficit to six with 3:15 to play.
Abby Hamilton answered for the Lakers 27 seconds later to erase any Grand Valley notions about getting closer.
“That was the time that came when we had to start pressing to force turnovers,” Triskett said. “We had create some opportunities. That (shot) was a big one.”
“Abby’s really starting to play well the latter part of the season,” Compan said. “She injured her foot before the season and then she got mono. She hasn’t been healthy until recently.
“Her shot doesn’t always look pretty, but it’s nice to get those 3s.”
PV was 8-8 from the line over the final two minutes to seal the victory.
Gabriel led the Lakers with 21 points and five assists, Brown recorded 19 points and nine rebounds and Brant added 11 points and four boards.
A baseline jumper from Kelly Preske at the first-period buzzer gave the Mustangs the lead through eight minutes.
With Vormelker on the bench for the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Mustangs built a 21-14 lead with three minutes to go before the break.
An 11-2 spurt, though, gave PV the lead, 27-25, at the half.
Following a steal and a layup from Gabriel, the Lakers held a 41-32 lead midway through the third. Two triples from Paskey and a bucket from Vormelker in the span of 1:25, had Grand Valley back within a point, 41-40, with 40 seconds left in the half.
“Abby shot the ball well,” Triskett said. “She’s one of the kids who stepped up when Jess went down with fouls. They all did in some way, but Abby really stepped up.”
Vormelker tallied 22 points, Paskey scored 12 and Chris Futty added 10 for the Mustangs.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.