By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
The battle Saturday night between the Brookfield Warriors and Pymatuning Valley Lakers had the perspective to be a preview of an upcoming district-tournament battle.
Both teams have had fine seasons with much to be proud of, so it was only logical that the team that took advantages of breaks would come out on top in closing the regular season.
That’s exactly how it played out as the Warriors pulled away behind a stifling third period defensive effort to claim a 59-46 victory.
“We knew coming in that PV is a team of all guards,” Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said. “They are very quick and put on a lot of pressure, so it’s important to get a lead on a team like that, so once we got the lead, especially in the second half, we were able to extend it.”
Balance attacking the rim was a major key for the Warriors (19-3). They claimed the lead for good when Jimmy Quinlan found brother Jeremy for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that provided a 30-27 halftime lead.
Opening the third period on a 7-3 run pushed the lead out, and cold shooting from the floor and stifling defense from Brookfield while Grant Nowakowski sat on the bench with four fouls proved to be too much of an obstacle for the Lakers (17-5) to overcome.
“It’s basically no secret that we don’t have a really deep bench,” PV coach Ryan Fitch said. “Foul trouble really hurt. Grant had to sit a lot, and I just didn’t think it was fair to throw our young kids into the game against a team as good as Brookfield and expect them to compete. You have to credit Brookfield for having a good game plan and doing what it took to win. Their guards are big and physical and make it tough to do a lot of things.”
A 12-5 edge in scoring in that third period extended the lead to double digits for the Warriors, and with all five starters accounting for all of their points by reaching double digits, the best response the Lakers could come up with was Quintin Ratliff.
The junior did his best, putting home 24 points while snaring seven rebounds, but with constant pressure and double teams on newly-annointed 1,000-point scorer Tim Cross, only Ratliff was able to exert any offensive force for PV.
“We had stretches where we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Kovach said. “I was really happy with our ball distribution tonight, and we knew we had to contest their 3’s and try to limit Ratliff’s ball penetration.”
PV hit on eight long-range shots, but getting good shots against the much taller and longer Warriors proved to be too much of a task. The Lakers capped their regular season hitting just a third of their 48 shots.
Patience and consistency in taking care of the ball got the Warriors many good shots, and overall, they made the most of them, nailing 24 of 42 shots for 57.1 percent.
Jeremy Quinlan paced the attack for the Warriors with 18 points, including 11 in the second half. Collin Harkulich was their main force in the first half with all 11 of his points. He hit all five shots he took. The second-half offense was aided by Ryan Mosora’s seven points.
Toss in the 10-point efforts of Jimmy Quinlan and Derrick Dickson, and you see a starting five with balance and confidence that works to win. With the size edge they had overall on the Lakers, and with Nowakowski and also Chase Thurber missing a bit of time with three early fouls, depth came to the fore, and the Warriors had it.
“The biggest problem tonight for us,” Fitch said, “is that Brookfield just has too many good players that work well as a team. They’re well-rounded and it would not surprize me a bit to see them make a deep run into the tournament.”
Ratliff’s 24 led the Lakers, Cross added nine, but no other PV player scored more than four.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.