By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
The holidays have passed, but the holiday funk is still heavy in the air, at least for the Warren JFK and Pymatuning Valley boys basketball teams as the Lakers scored a 37-27 non-conference win over the Eagles.
Tim Cross scored nearly half of the PV points, netting nine in each half as both teams just could not get any offensive flow going.
“Tim Cross really stepped up big for us tonight,” Laker coach Ryan Fitch said. “We needed to have some senior leadership on the floor tonight and Timmy really stepped up when he absolutely had to. We got some big plays from Austin Nowakowski and Evan Pilson, too. Tim’s just a hard-nosed kid who comes to play. He’s had a couple off nights recently, but others stepped up, and tonight he had his turn.”
Defenses played a big part in that funk, but both teams also had numerous missed chances, though there were many reasons for that.
PV’s Quintin Ratliff, who has been stepping up in a huge way for PV (7-1, 3-0 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) was running the floor with obvious health issues, and his 2 of 14 shooting night was far from normal.
Pilson scored eight points on 4 of 9 shooting and paced the Lakers’ effort on the backboards with nine rebounds as the Lakers doubled up the Eagles, 30-15. His efforts allowed the Lakers to overcome missed shots, of which there were many, in maintaining ball control.
“We’ve been talking with Evan about being more aggresive,” Fitch said. “He’d also been fading away from the basket with his shot, so we’ve been all over him to not fade away when he shoots. He played a solid game tonight and made some big plays to keep us in the lead.”
It was a putback by Pilson at the end of the first period that gave the Lakers a 10-7 edge through eight minutes. .
Chase Thurber scored all five of his points in the fourth period to extend the Laker lead after the Eagles got within a point, 21-20, with under a minute left in the third period.
A pair of Robert Seger free throws brought the lead to a point with 7:45 to play at 23-22. A Thurber three-point play opened the lead to four again, Cross took a rebound on a JFK miss all the way to the hoop for a layup and Thurber took a long pass under the hoop from Cross for another layup. The Lakers added to that lead with some free throws.
“We know that PV is a good shooting team that likes to put up those 3-pointers,” JFK coach Shawn Pompelia said. “When you hold a team like that to an 0-13 effort (from beyond the arc), you should win. We gave up 10 offensive rebounds to them tonight and you won’t ever win doing that.
“If you hold a team like PV to a low score, you expect to win. Our team rebounding was just terrible. It’s been our Achilles’ heel all season, but not like it was tonight. The people of Andover should really be glad to have a coach of Ryan Fitch’s caliber leading their team because he proved tonight that he motivates his kids to get things done when things just aren’t working well.”
A stifling defense for the Lakers denied entry into the paint for the Eagles (3-5), and it paid off handsomely. Seger led the way with nine points, and Dominic Naples and John Hilty each added eight.
A key point for PV came in an important facet.
“The signature for our defense has to be boxing out,” Fitch said. “We try to box out everybody as much as we can, and we did a good job tonight.”
In winning the battle of the backboards, PV did not surrender a single offensive rebound to the Eagles. That showed up in just 29 scoring attempts from JFK, of which it made only 11.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.