(3) PV vs. (6) Champion
at Mineral Ridge
When the Golden Flashes and Lakers mix it up, it will be a contrast in styles.
Pymatuning Valley (21-2) likes to press and trap the length of the court. When the Lakers are successful in that, things go a lot better for them.
“I enjoy us playing at that pace and our girls enjoy it,” Compan said. “There’s a lot less rules that way. They’re not afraid to shoot the ball. There’s never the question of whether we made enough passes or all the rules aligned with us getting a good shot or not.”
“They’re long and lanky,” Thompson said. “That’s why they press and play halfcourt defense. That’s key for them. We have to limit turnovers because their defense feeds their offense.”
Champion is a much better team when it can slow the pace and play a halfcourt game.
Compan understands it’s to the Lakers’ benefit to play the kind of game they’ve played all season.
“(Champion) suffered a few injuries,” Compan said. “Jeff and I are good friends and he’ll admit they’re not as deep as they should be. The further we get into their bench, whether it be because of foul troubles or rest, is more advantageous for us.”
When the teams met the first time, it was Champion (15-9) that was able to control the tempo.
“Champion’s got two good scorers in Gabby Lamont and Mackenzie Kiser,” Compan said. “We need to contain them and be aggressive on offense.
“The first game we played with them was an overtime game and we only scored 41 or 42 points. The pace was theirs. We’ll be a little more aggressive on offense and the key is to keep those two under wraps will be Object 1 on defense.”
Kiser, who is the biggest part of the Golden Flashes’ offense, will touch the ball at least once and often multiple times in every possession. If she doesn’t look to score, she operates as a facilitator, allowing others to get opportunities.
It was that willingness to share that allowed Lamont to hurt the Lakers in the first matchup.
“When we played the first time, we tried to deny (Kiser) the ball,” Compan said. “Lamont hurt us with jumpers. You have to pick your poison if (Lamont) is making her shots. She’s getting three (points) at a time as opposed to Kiser getting two.”
Lamont will have to be just as lethal this time around as she was the last.
“That’s one of the things they a good job of the last time we played,” Thompson said. “Brown covered that pass down low and they doubled (Kiser). We have to have ball movement and hit the outside jump shots to open the inside. If we don’t do those things, they’ll pack everyone down in on Mackenzie.”
The Lakers’ athleticism has fueled its fullcourt press all season and could be a difference maker against the Golden Flashes.
“That’s our strength,” Compan said. “That’s how we’ve won a lot of close games. We took a lot of games from a two-point difference to 10 or 12 because of it.
“It makes a big difference. We’ll and exploit that when we can. For us, that’s what we do. They have a girl who made 50 3s and a 6-foot post. They’re going to try and walk it up and keep the score in the 40s.”
For Champion to slow the pace, it doesn’t necessarily take simply holding the ball. There are other, and maybe more efficient ways, to pull it off.
“One of the best ways to slow it down is for us to be patient on offense,” Thompson said. “They can’t score if they don’t have the ball. We don’t necessarily have to stand and hold it. We can run a patterned offense to get good looks and take 20, 30 or 40 seconds to get that good shot.”
Kiser and Champion may have the advantage in size in the post, but PV and the duo of Brown and Megan Stech are far more athletic and have a knack for finding the hoop, as well as the ball following errant shots.
“Megan has been a huge surprise for us this year,” Compan said. “In the offseason, we were expecting to play a little varsity and a little JV. She’s been starting for the varsity. She gets her hands on so many rebounds. She makes a huge difference.
“Kelsea is steady. She scores 17 or 18 points and gets 10 rebounds each night. For someone who is only 5-foot-7, those are great numbers.”
Brown, Stech and Heather Brant have found a nice connection.
“The girls are very unselfish,” Compan said. “Kelsea, Megan and Heather have settled in. They’ve discovered where each one will be when one of them gets stuck and where each one of them likes to have the ball to shoot.
“They do a nice job created assists. I don’t think I’ve ever had posts who have as many assists as those three have this year.”
With point guard Geena Gabriel slicing, dicing and dishing, the outside shooting of Michealia Skleres and the post play, the Lakers have five legitimate scoring threats.
“We have four girls, almost five, who score in double digits,” Compan said. They’re an unselfish team. They make it tough for teams to prepare for us.
“They’re all capable of scoring and they can all put in 15 to 18 points.”
“We definitely have to pick our poison,” Thompson said. “You can’t guard everything. One of the things you have to be concerned with regarding PV. They drive well and get offensive rebounds. We need to stop the penetration and keep them off the boards.”
Gabriel, Brant and Skleres will key the pace for the Lakers.
“The guards do a great job of pressuring the ball,” Compan said. “When they get the ball on a steal or a rebound, they don’t hesitate. When we walk the ball up, that’s when something is wrong.”
When the Lakers need a play, Brant is the one most likely to deliver.
“She has a knack, when we’re struggling, for doing her own thing,” Compan said. “She’ll sag off and get a steal or tip that leads to a steal. She has a feel for the game. She knows she can run here, jump and get a tip or a steal.
“Most times, she’s dead on.”
Gabriel, always a good distributor of the ball, is starting to become a dangerous threat from the outside, as well.
“With the Brown girl inside and Gabriel outside, they have a nice inside-out game,” Thompson said.
Also seeing a lot of time, and potentially bringing some points off the bench for the Lakers will be Abby Hamilton and Rebecca Dillon.