By ERIC FORTUNE
If there was ever a revenge game, Thursday’s matchup with Mplewood was that game for the Pymatuning Valley Lakers as they avenged an earlier loss to the Rockets with a 56-43 victory by changing up what they do best.
After the Lakers jumped out to an early five-point advantage thanks in large part to Geena Gabriel, who finished with a team-high 15 points, the Rockets (11-3, 7-1 in Northeastern Athletic Conference) responded with a 10-2 run en route to a 14-10 advantage after one quarter.
“Usually, we press and press and press the whole game as well as trap,” Pymatuning Valley coach Jeff Compan said. “Miranda Sloan is nearly impossible to trap. We scrapped our full-court press because they were getting easy buckets.
“We tried to get it back into a halfcourt game — contain their shooters and front their posts. We tried to make things as difficult as possible.”
The full effect of getting out of their bread and butter didn’t initially show in the score as both teams went back and forth throughout the second quarter.
Maplewood’s Brooke Dawson was a headache for the Lakers (14-2, 7-2) as she controlled the paint scoring 12 of her 16 points in the opening half.
With the game tied, 25-25, at the half, it was almost as if the game was going to come down to a final possession, as it did back in Andover when the Rockets escaped with a 57-55 win.
Instead, going to a half court game caused the Rockets fits as everything completely flipped the way of the Lakers.
“They took the press off because we were getting some easy baskets, which ended being up a very wise decision on their part,” Maplewood coach Mark Yoder said. “After that, we didn’t get any real easy looks at the basket.”
Halfway through the third quarter, the Lakers had built an eight-point advantage, 33-25, after a Michealia Skleres bucket.
Compan felt as long as they weren’t getting any easy buckets, his squad could stay with what it was doing. Allison Bell, who finished with a game-high 17 points, was still able to knock down some 3-pointers, but by the time they were dropping, the Lakers had built a double-digit advantage that was too big for the Rockets to overcome.
For PV, Heather Brant and Gabriel were racked up steals and allowed the Lakers to run and get some great looks at the basket as they extended their lead to as much as 16, 50-34.
“On offense, we wanted to exploit the high post,” Compan said. “I thought we did a good job with that early in the second half. We kept reminding them in timeouts to get to the high post. Geena broke through their defense in the fourth quarter a few times with layups. That pushed that lead from close to comfortable.
“We wanted a little bit of revenge tonight. They beat us on our court. The girls came out with great intensity. They defended very well. That was a good win for us.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.