By VINCE PELUSO
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Bristol coach Craig Geisy said his team had one focus going into its Northeastern Athletic Conference clash with Pymatuning Valley on Friday — don’t let senior Quintin Ratliff beat them.
The Panthers accomplished that goal and a 24-point second half effort from Brandon Lee helped spoil the Lakers senior night with a 70-58 win.
“The only game plan we really had tonight was make someone else beat us, don’t let Ratliff beat us,” Geisy said. “If someone else goes off for 15, 20 and we lose so be it. We don’t want to wake up tomorrow with a loss and Ratliff going off for 30. The boys did a good job tonight to make him take tough shots.”
The teams battled back and forth for the first three and a half quarters when a Ratliff bucket put the Lakers up, 56-54. But Lee (game-high 26 points) responded with a 3 to give the Panthers a 57-56 lead.
On the next possession, a dubious intentional foul was called on the Lakers (12-9, 10-5), sending Lee to the line, where he hit a pair of free throws.
Another pair of Lee free throws followed by a dagger 3 from Aaron Wiebe with 2:03 remaining put Bristol up, 64-56.
Bristol shot 26 attemts from the stripe, to PV’s 5.
When Ratliff (10 points) scored to stop the bleeding with 49 seconds left, the Panthers (16-6, 11-4) had just completed a 12-0 run and were up 66-58.
PV coach Ryan Shontz said he felt the game turned on the intentional foul, which contributed to Nick Blascak fouling out.
“He (official Drew Puckrin) made up something about if you turn and hit someone above the shoulders... But Chase (Thurber) is 6-3 and the kid guarding him is 5-5 so how can he hit him anywhere but above the shoulders?” he said. “Then he called the foul on the forward who didn’t have the ball on the next play which fouled him out of the game.
“That was really where the game swung on some phantom, intentional, I’m-making-up-some rules call.”
Lee got going early in the second half when he drained two 3s to start the scoring for the Panters.
He scored 13 points in the third period and helped put the game away with 8 of 8 shooting from the free throw line in the final period.
“He had a rough first half,” Geisy said. “He’s our scorer, he’s a 1,000-point scorer and a great kid. He works hard, he can shoot the ball. He was more aggressive I thought, he hit that early 3 then starting going to the hole and got to the line and put us on his back in the game in the third quarter.”
Both teams came out firing in the second half.
After PV led 27-23 after two periods, Bristol outscored the Lakers 25-23 in the third.
Shontz said he felt both teams seemed to hit their stride in the third.
“We both kind of settled in, it was a slow first half offensively, both teams were kind of feeling each other out,” he said. “It was an even game until the fourth quarter when they started hitting and the ball just wouldn’t go in for us. We got the shots we wanted the ball just would not go down for us. That happens sometimes.”
After trailing 21-20 in the second period, the Lakers seemed poised to take the momentum.
With 1:53 left, Ratliff scored his first point and Thurber followed with a triple. Then, with a minute left, Ratliff got a steal and outran Bristol for a breakaway dunk.
With the win, the Panthers clinched at least a share of the NAC Stripes Division.
Thurber led the Lakers with 21 points. Aaron Weibe contributed 15 points while Bryce Gabrielson added 13 in the win for Bristol.
For Shontz, it’s all about getting his team refocused for Tuesday’s Division III sectional semifinal against rival Grand Valley.
“It was senior night, but with the new rules playing at home in the playoffs, they’ve got another shot, it’s not their last home game,” he said. “I asked them after, ‘you know what happened on my senior night? I don’t know, either.’ I think we got out of roles a little bit and that threw us off.
“We have got a couple days to get ready. All these kids have played each other since they were little. It should be fun.”