By ERIC FORTUNE
For the Star Beacon
MINERAL RIDGE —
There was no overlooking the Springfield Local Tigers despite the sub-.500 record.
Pymatuning Valley coach Jeff Compan wouldn’t let it happen after the shooting performance the Tigers did on his Lakers’ squad just a year ago in sectional play.
This year, his group played a near-flawless game, rolling to a 68-42 victory in a Division III sectional final at Lakeside
Unlike like last Saturday where they let a 5-17 East Palestine team hang around, the Lakers’ rolled off 18-straight points after Springfield scored the opening points. All five starters had scored before a Tigers time out at the 3:07 mark allowed the bleeding to stop a bit.
“We talked about getting off to a good start,” Compan said. “If they get off to a good start, you’re in a fight for the whole game. We wanted to jump on them.”
Overall, the Lakers (21-2) shot 70-perfect from the field on just 10 field goal attempts in the opening quarter and for the game finished at 58.7 percent.
The Tigers (7-14) were able to get some offensive consistency to get back within 10 after an 8-2 run to close out the quarter. No shot was bigger for Springfield than Callie Ford’s 3 that made it 20-10 after one and started the Tigers’ attempt to get back within the game.
Ford would knock down a few more buckets throughout the second quarter to close the gap as the Tigers were able to get it within six twice in the second quarter at 24-18 and 26-20.
Ford would lead the Tigers with 16 points.
“The scouting report was not to let (Ford) loose,” Compan said. “We talked about her for three days. We thought we could be close to her and let Geena (Gabriel) guard her, but give her credit she stepped up and made some big shots.”
Despite some big shooting from Springfield, the Lakers responded again with another run to push out their advantage to 11 at 34-23 at the half.
“They are very athletic and good shooters,” Compan said. “We only have one or two teams with shooters like that (in our league). We play a lot more zone. We were having trouble finding (Ford) in man or zone. I thought we got on a roll offensively which helped us out. They are very similar to what we would see in our league. They would do very well.”
That roll continued to spearhead into the second half as a 10-2 run to open the second half made it 44-28 for the Lakers after a bucket from Gabriel with 3:32 left in the quarter dispelled any real chance the Tigers had of making this a game down the stretch.
Gabriel would finish with 16 points, seven rebounds, and four steals.
“The most important part of the game for us was the first four or so minutes of the second half where we went from up 11 to 18,” Compan said. “We really did a good job of taking the lead and building on it. We got our buckets and made some stops.
“I thought that was very important once we stretched it out because it was going to be very tough on their end to come back from that.”
When Pymatuning Valley needed a bucket, the answer was that of Kelsea Brown, she made it either in the paint or from the line all game as she scored 12 of her game-high 22 points in the first half. She was also a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
“Kelsea has really matured and evolved this year as a sophomore,” Compan said. “Now, I think she sees herself as the go-to girl. Once she gets rolling, it’s one of those things where our offense just rolls.
“I was real happy with the way she played tonight. I was happy with her effort. The girls just look for her. When the girls are unselfish like that, it really helps out and makes things easy.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.