Special to Tribune Chronicle
ORWELL - When it comes to a rivalry, what is listed on paper can be thrown out the window.
That was the case of the experienced Pymatuning Valley Lakers against the youthful Grand Valley Mustangs on Friday night.
It took a big third period, sparked by a pair of 6-0 runs by the Lakers, for them to pull away from the Mustangs for a 59-47 Northeastern Athletic Conference victory.
"The first couple minutes of the third period are always important," Grand Valley coach Luke Strohm said. "I think this was our best game of the season, by far. But for some reason, we may have come out from halftime a tad flat for just a couple minutes. PV is a really good team, they jumped on us, and that was the game."
After Stanley Sirrine of GV (1-2, 1-1) drained his third 3-pointer of the game to give the Mustangs a 27-25 lead early in that third period. Tim Cross (23 points, seven rebounds, two assists) drove down the middle of the lane for a layup to tie the score.
Cross untied it shortly thereafter with a jumper from the top of the key. Grant Nowakowski (nine points, three steals, two assists) then stole the ball and went coast to coast, and Nowakowski fed Cross again for a short jumper, giving PV a small lead.
A charging call on the next possession for the Mustangs on what looked like a simple block resulted in a technical foul on Strohm. Cross split the free throws coming from the transgression, and for just a while, it looked like the game might be over as PV (4-0, 2-0 in NAC) opened a double-digit lead at 44-33 on the heels of the second 6-0 run of the period.
"You just know Grand Valley is always going to be well coached," Laker coach Ryan Fitch said. "It's hard to play them in their gym, too. Emotions always run higher because this is a great rivalry, too. I think we did a much better job in the second half. Our shot selection was much better. We got too bunched up in the middle in the first half and tried too many 3-point shots, especially in the second quarter."
The Lakers were not hitting them in the first half, netting just a third of their 24 shots. In winning the third period, though, they hit eight of 14 shots to outscore the Mustangs, 19-9, and GV never got going until the lead had expanded to 50-39 with 4:38 to play.
Jake Vormelker (16 points, nine rebounds), held to just a single free throw in the first half, hit all six of his free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter and added a pair of deep 3-pointers in the last couple minutes to trim the gap. But PV, which was just nine of 19 from the line through three periods, nailed seven of eight down the stretch to pull away.
Cross had a big game, and he was aided by Quintin Ratliff's solid second half. He tallied 13 of his 17 points in the second half, and Nowakowski scored seven of his nine in the big third period.
"Tim did a great job of hitting those 8-10 footers tonight," Fitch said. "He makes our offense go, and Quintin had a big second half, too."
The Mustangs got Vormelker's big second half output for 16 points, and Sirrine and Josh Kovats each added nine.
"PV is a team of good shooters, they have experience, and they have good athleticism," Strohm said. "There's not much you can say. I feel we played a good game, just not good enough."