Picking up where he left off last week, Quintin Ratliff ran off the first eights points for the Pymatuning Valley Lakers.
The only difference this time around — the Lakers had dug themselves a hole at 17-8 en route to 59-48 setback to the Brookfield Warriors.
“He can really take over and win matchups against just about anybody,” Pymatuning Valley coach Ryan Shontz said. “I’ll take him 1-on-1 against anybody, but as a whole, we didn’t match up well.”
All in all in the first half, the Lakers struggled offensively with 3-of-15 shooting coupled with 13 turnovers.
“Our defense is pretty sound — especially for the first game,” Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said. “At times on offense, we really struggled. We didn’t know what a good shot was.
“Defensively, we were concentrating no matter what we were in, we had to know where Ratliff was. He had 24 on us last year. He’s a special player. I think the difference in the game was the shots he did get, were contested. They weren’t good shots. He always had one or two guys in his face. He can take over a game.”
Still, despite the offensive and defensive woes in the opening half, trailing just 25-14 at the half allowed Shontz to calm his players down and get back to worked against Conneaut.
“We talked about individual responsibility and taking ownership for your role in the offense,” Shontz said. “The first half, we were scared, folding under pressure, and running to the wrong spots. We just needed to get our composure back. We did that and it got us back into the game.”
Did it ever as Chase Thurber knocked down three consecutive 3s coupled with Ratliff’s six points of a game high 21 to cut a nine point Brookfield advantage to just four 38-34 heading into the final quarter.
“He does that a lot,” Shontz said. “He’s a spark plug. Anytime, he can go 5-for-5 and push a big lead out or get us out of a deficit.
“He’s a great player. He does a lot of things well.”
Though the energy spent climbing back into the game seemed to be the Lakers’ undoing as they couldn’t inch any closer.
“It’s hard to make a comeback when you go down as many points as we did,” Shontz said. “We wasted a lot of energy throughout the second and third quarters trying to get back into the game. It showed down the stretch because we weren’t able to make plays.”
Every time, the Lakers (1-1) needed a bucket to seize momentum, it was the Warriors (1-0) who responded after Ratliff missed a pair of free throws to push the lead from six back out to 10 at 48-38.
“I think it just had to do with taking care of the ball,” Kovach said. “When we take care of it and pass it, we get better possessions. A lot of times, we don’t know what one is because we’re a young team. We hope to improve on that.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.