By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Pymatuning Valley girls basketball coach Jeff Compan wanted his Lakers to set a defensive tone to start Division III postseason play. Behind the long arms of Megan Stech, Compan got exactly what he wanted in the Lakers’ 79-17 sectional semifinal victory over Atwater Waterloo on their home floor.
“We talked about defensive intensity,” Compan said. “More than anything else, more than anything we wanted to contest every shot and really work on boxing out.
“We did a pretty good job of that for 3 of the 4 quarters.”
The top-seeded Lakers have run their record to 22-0 and will host Berkshire, seeded 10th, in a sectional championship game Saturday at 4 p.m.
“Berkshire is struggling right now,” Compan said. “(Berkshire coach Dennis Lory) said they only have 8 or 9 healthy bodies. They can’t even run 5 on 5 in practice.”
Stech used her long reach and some pretty good timing to bedevil the Vikings (1-22) for 8 steals.
“Megan is so long, you look at her and think she’s in bad position,” Compan said. “They make a pass and somehow she gets her hand on the ball. I don’t know if she’s a great defensive player who is never in position or if she’s baiting the other team to get steals.
“That’s up for debate, but she allows our guards to play closer than they normally would on the outside.”
“Megan is long and she’s tall,” PV forward Kelsea Brown said. “She’s a beast in there. They were a small team tonight and she took advantage.”
PV racked up 21 steals, forcing 35 turnovers.
The Lakers used a 19-0 stretch that lasted more than 5 minutes in the first period to take a 24-2 lead nearly 7 minutes in.
“Their pressing hurt us to begin with,” Waterloo coach Kevin Pletcher said. “Their span really affected us. We got some shots early, but they rushed us and that put us out of comfort zone.
“They scored early and quick and we had to match up with them in a man defense. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to pack it in more. We knew they would be more effective from the inside.”
Brown banked home a shot from near the mid-ourt stripe at the buzzer to give her team a 27-4 lead through 8 minutes. She scored 15 points in the quarter and had 21 at the half. She finished with 27.
“I didn’t think it had a chance,” she said. “But I guess it always has a chance to go in. I surprised myself when it went in.”
With the Vikings packing it in, PV point guard Geena Gabriel was left with a lot of room to facilitate the offense. Early on, she was content to dish to Brown. Later, as Waterloo moved into its man-to-man, she began taking the ball to the rim.
“I like to let Geena take control,” Compan said. “She looks to me a lot of times and I give her a shrug. She’s been out there for 80 or 90 games by now. She can make that call for us. She does a good job making the pass or taking the shot when it’s there.”
“I just happened to be left open up top,” Gabriel said. “I’m more used to having a hand up in my face. I had to judge how far off me they were and if I had room enough to shoot.
“Sometimes, they felt too close and other times I was able to get a shot off. When there wasn’t really a lane open (to pass), I kept driving and I was getting fouls. (The points) added up.”
“We had to recognize the defense,” Brown said. “Usually, people are up on us. We had to watch and see where the open spots were. Geena looks for me and I look to score. We look for the open spaces.”
Brown’s bomb may have been a bad moment for the Lakers. They let up a bit and allowed 11 points in second period.
“Kelsea’s 3-pointer shot may have taken the air out of our intensity bubble a little bit,” Compan conceded. “Then we really came out and played solid defense in the second half.”
It mattered little, however, as the Lakers allowed just 11 shots in those first 16 minutes and forced 24 turnovers.
“Eleven shots in the first half,” Pletcher said. “We did make 5 of them. But we turned it over 24 times, too. Turnovers just killed us. Eleven shots... you just can’t do that in a varsity game in a half.”
PV tightened the defense in the second half, all just 2 points over the final 16 minutes.
Gabriel spread her 26 points well in the two halves, with 14 in the first half and 12 in the second.
Stech finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds.