By MATT WAGNER
For the Star Beacon
Throughout the week, Pymatuning Valley coach Ryan Fitch discussed with his team the need to get off to a quick start at Maplewood on Friday night, and Quintin Ratliff got the message loud and clear.
The junior guard dropped 12 of game-high 29 points in the first quarter to lead the Lakers to a 58-29 rout of Northeastern Athletic Conference title-rival Maplewood.
Ratliff was one of two players to make the scoresheet for PV (11-3, 6-2) in the first 8 minutes.
“We talked all week about trying to get a quick start, and he provided it for us,” Fitch said. “He came out and hit some jump shots right away and got the ball to the rim. He did an excellent job getting us going.”
The Rockets (11-5, 5-2) had no answer for stopping Ratliff.
He connected on mid-range jumpers, drove to the lane at will, hit three 3-pointers from beyond the arc and even got a couple of easy layups off of steals throughout the game.
Ratliff showcased his dominance with a nifty reverse layup with 34 seconds remaining in the quarter. The 6-foot-3 junior drove along the baseline from the left wing before launching himself on the right-side of the basket for the shot.
“The past few games, I haven’t been doing so well,” Ratliff said. “I wanted to get our team going, get them pumped up more than anything. I wanted us to go out there and have fun, and we did that.”
As much as Ratliff sparked the team, it took a timeout for PV to really get going.
Maplewood took a 7-5 at the 5:18 mark in the first quarter following a Luke Urchek field goal, and Fitch called the timeout before the ball went through the net.
Out of the timeout, the Lakers rattled off a 12-0 run through the rest of the quarter, and PV never looked back from that point.
Ratliff had 10 of the Lakers’ points in that run and pointed to Fitch’s demeanor during the timeout as a motivating factor.
“He just started yelling like normal,” Ratliff said. “When he starts getting red, it starts to motivate us, and that's what made us go.”
Despite leading by 27 points going into the final quarter, both Fitch and Ratliff said the team wasn’t comfortable until mid-way through the fourth.
By that point, the Lakers extended their lead to more than 30 points. PV could take a breath at that point.
“Probably five minutes left in the fourth quarter when I saw we were up 30 points or so,” Ratliff said. “When that happened, I just smiled because it was pretty much the end of the game for the varsity (players).”
Maplewood Kevin Jones recorded 17 points for the Rockets, and when things seemed to go downhill in the third quarter, he tried to keep his team afloat with seven points.
Maplewood coach Nathan Kish had nothing but praise for his point guard, especially with him playing out of his natural position.
“We don't necessarily have a true point guard,” he said. “(Jones) has really stepped up and done a good job taking care of the ball and trying to get people where they’re supposed to be. I'm happy with the way he plays.”
Wagner is a writer for the (Warren) Tribune Chronicle.