By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Pymatuning Valley forward Quintin Ratliff picked the perfect moment to dial it up a notch in non-conference clash with visiting Conneaut. The senior took over the action in the second half, scoring 18 of his game-high 28 points after intermission as the Lakers overcame a tough band of youthful Spartans to claim a 69-56 victory.
In gaining his first win as the the Lakers’ coach, Ryan Shontz he was relieved to have the game done and over with.
“I was excited to have that first buzzer sound to get us going, and I'm glad it all got started on a positive note for us,” he said.
The Spartans did not make it easy for Shontz’s crew.
“They had five players attacking the whole way on the floor tonight,” he said. “They forced us to change our gameplan a good bit in the second half. We want to run as much as we can. We are learning a new system, so you know there are going to be turnovers and mistakes, especially early in the season.
“We operate on a space and pace mode, so we wanted to force the pace into a faster pace in the second half to use Quintin's quickness and ability. It paid off for us.”
After jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead in the first period and seeing it nearly evaporate early in the third period, PV (1-0) was able to run more in the second half.
Ratliff connected on 8 of 13 shots, mostly from within the 10-12 foot range, and forced the young Spartans to give him more attention, which left his teammates opportunities to get into the act as PV pulled away from a 34-30 lead early in the third period to a double-digit edge early in the fourth.
“Fortunately tonight, we were able to battle back and make a game of it,” Conneaut coach Tim Tallbacka said. “It was just one of those things for an opening night.
“I honestly thought we would do better than we did, but we turned the ball over too much and we didn't shoot it well, either. When the game got into the press mode in the fourth period, we were hurt a lot by Ratliff, who is a superb open-court player. He really hurt us.
As Ratliff, who also snared 12 rebounds in the game, led the way whith his 28 points, Tim Baker also had a second-half tally of 15 points. Travis Kiser also netted 15 to go with 10 rebounds and three steals as he gave the Lakers solid guard play.
Much of the comeback was sparked by freshman guard Justin Franklin, who tallied 14 points and made a pest of himself on defense all night.
Justin Myers nailed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the third period on his way to 18 points and Jacob Spees tallied 12 to go with 10 rebounds
Conneaut committed 26 turnovers in the contest.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.