By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Defensively speaking, Lakeview’s plan was to take Geneva out of its game. Based on the results — a 46-38 win over the Eagles in Thursday’s Division II district semifinal matchup — it is safe to say that that goal was achieved.
“We wanted to make it a fullcourt game as long as possible,” Lakeview coach Adam Lewis said. “If we could make it 32 minutes going up and down, that’s what we wanted to do. We did not want to sit in a halfcourt game with Geneva. We knew they had a lot of scoring threats. Our girls just had to buckle down and play good man-to-man defense. I thought they did that.
“I think that up-and-down pace messed up their offense a bit. We wanted to extend them because they’re very good, very disciplined in the halfcourt setting.”
The result was that the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (19-5) — who will meet second-seeded Chagrin Falls, a 45-42 winner in overtime against third-seeded Lake Catholic in the second semifinal Thursday night, in the district championship game Saturday afternoon — limited Geneva to 23.5 percent shooting on 12 of 51 attempts.
Lakeview was led by junior guard Allie Pavlik, who played an all-around exceptional game, including 20 points.
Top-seeded Geneva had not only beaten the Bulldogs 54-41 in the season opener on Nov. 24, but had also knocked them out of the tournament the prior three seasons. But it was not to be on this evening.
“Obviously, we have to give Lakeview credit,” Geneva coach Nancy Barbo said. “I don’t know if our girls underestimated their aggressiveness to some extent, but Lakeview never played it safe the whole night, and just kept us back on our heels, and forcing us to make shots, and we didn’t do it.”
Nine of Pavlik’s points came in the fourth quarter. She added six rebounds and four assists overall, and seemed to control the ball on a string.
“She makes it very difficult for teams to press us,” Lewis said.
“We ran the press one time, and (Pavlik) dribbled right through us, and dumped it off and scored,” Barbo, who related that her team became desperate on defense and gambled too much, said. “And she dribbled through five people. That kind of is the night right there.”
Becky Depp scored 12 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter in her swan song for the Eagles (20-3), while teammate Natalie Thomas ended her high school career with 12 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. However, the rest of the team managed only six points combined.
After taking an 8-2 lead on a Thomas basket in the final minute of the opening period, Lakeview went on a 16-2 run, with Pavlik scoring nine, to grab an 18-10 advantage midway through the second quarter.
Geneva responded with six straight points to cut it to 18-16, but despite getting within one at 23-22 on two Depp free throws with less than one minute remaining in the third frame, never caught the Bulldogs.
Three Lakeview baskets, all layups, pushed it to 29-22 early in the fourth quarter. Then after freshman Lindsey Mayle hit a 3-pointer to get within 29-25, the Bulldogs strung together six more points to push the advantageto 35-25. The margin reached as high as 11 at 38-27 and 41-30 before Geneva was able to trim it to six at 44-38 on a Depp triple with less than 15 seconds left.
“I kept hoping that the first quarter was just jitters, and that (in the) second quarter we would work our way out of it,” Barbo said. “We just were in... I don’t know. We were in a funk and couldn’t get out of it. It starts by struggling from the outside and not making our shots, and that just spiraled into everything we did.”
“We put four quarters together,” Lewis said. “The girls bought into what we were talking about all week. They played the style that we wanted to, and they played it for 32 minutes relentlessly. I’m very proud of their effort tonight.”
The Bulldogs often slowed the pace down while on offense. The great majority of their 17 baskets came on layups or shots from close to the hoop. Lizzy Konitsney (2 blocks) scored all eight of her points and pulled down half her 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter to help hold off the Eagles. Calli Schmitt contributed seven boards and a pair of blocks, Abby Pavlik four steals and Marissa Naples two blocks.
“Tonight was a total team effort,” Lewis said. “All five girls on the floor didn’t miss their assignments, did what they were supposed to do. We moved the ball well. I was most impressed with their defense tonight. They really got after it.”
When suggested that it appeared her team did not shoot with confidence, Barbo agreed, but took it a few steps further.
“Not at all,” she said. “I kept telling them that. I said, ‘You’re not playing with confidence, for some reason. You’re not shooting with confidence, you’re not handling the ball with confidence.’ It was just an odd display of basketball. I kept hoping that we start clicking, and we never did.
“There was nothing fluid about this game. Even (in) a timeout I would tell them what to run, and we never came out and ran it. It just was a baffling game, and it was disappointing because it wasn’t like we didn’t practice hard throughout the week.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.