The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 20, 2013

New Cross to bear

PV senior becomes a Grand Player in victory at Geneva

Staff Writer

GENEVA — Four years ago when Pymatuning Valley coach Ryan Fitch took over the Lakers program, a freshman guard named Tim Cross made such an impact on him, that it only took five games for the first-year coach to insert the first-year player into his starting lineup.

When Cross, now a senior, stepped to the free-throw line and hit the first of two attempts with 6:36 remaining in a 57-43 win Tuesday night at Geneva, it marked the 1,000th point he scored under Fitch, making him the 39th player in Ashtabula County to reach that mark.

Cross went on to score 15 in the game, giving him 1,002 for his career, placing him 38th all-time in Ashtabula County boys basketball history.

Leading into the game, Cross said he was feeling the pressure to get over the hump.

“It was just kind of like my first game ever as a basketball player,” he said. “It was really nerve-racking, I just wanted to get it off my chest and put it to bed tonight. (Before the free throw) I better make this one, that’s all I kept thinking.

“It was very nerve-racking, I just figured I’d shoot with confidence and get it over with.”

The four-year starter’s accomplishment of 1,000 points could be considered more significant because of his attitude as a pass-first, score-second player.

“He’s a very unselfish player,” Fitch said. “It doesn’t matter. Tim would rather win and score zero than score 40 and us lose. That’s just the type of kid he is. I’m happy for him to get it because a kid like that deserves it. He’s a leader on the court, an extension of the head coach.

“It’s been my honor and pleasure to coach him.”

For Cross, he never saw himself as a 1,000-point scorer.

“I didn’t, I didn’t even think about it until maybe midway through the season I started to hear about it,” he said. “My teammates give me a lot of open shots, I just take what the defense gives me. If it’s a shot I’ll take it, if it’s not I just dish to my teammates and they’ll do the rest.”

Early on, Geneva looked to play the role of spoiler on Cross’ night.

After Quintin Ratliff (game-high 24 points) buried a 3 off a Cross assist to close out the first period and Chase Thurber (six points) opened the second with a bucket, the Eagles ran off 14-straight to turn a 17-10 PV lead into a 24-17 advantage.

Zac Sweet (eight points) closed out the run with consecutive baskets, but Ratliff responded with his second of three triples on the night and Cross closed out the period with a three-point play to leave the Lakers down 24-23 at the half.

“It’s good to be in games early, we were in it for most of it,” Geneva coach Scott Torok said. “I think we got into the paint, got good penetration and caused some problems.”

With the Lakers down 30-28, two baskets from Cross and one from Ratliff put PV up 34-30 and it held that lead at 36-32 going into the fourth.

“We were a little lackadaisical coming out, Geneva’s big and physical,” Fitch said. “They’re a Division II basketball team and I think we got a little out-physicalled in that second and third quarter, got pushed around on the offense glass a little. I think in the second half, we tightened up a little bit to make sure we could get better check outs.”

A Ratliff hoop to open the fourth followed by five-straight from Cross to stretched the lead to 10 and PV was able to pull away from there.

For Cross, the eighth PV player to crack 1,000 points, becoming a Grand Player in a win made the night all the more special.

“It’s great because now we’re 17-4 and set up for a great matchup with Brookfield (at home Saturday),” Cross said. “I think (the difference this year for PV) is just our work ethic, it starts at practice. Fitch makes us get after it every day.

“He’s a great guy. He gets fired up all the time, but it’s just to get us going.”

The difference in the game may have come on the turnover differential. The Eagles committed just six turnovers in the middle quarters of the game, but committed eight in the final frame that PV won, 19-11.

“That’s been our Achilles’ heel,” Torok said. “I thought we did take care of the ball. We wanted to be a little deliberate on offense. We did to a point, we just didn’t hit the shots we needed.”

Vern Thompson’s 15 points led Geneva.

In addition to his 15 points, Cross also dished out five assists, gathered six boards and had three steals. Ratliff also contributed a game-high nine rebounds.