BRISTOLVILLE - Bristol coach Craig Giesy knows his fourth-ranked, Division IV Bristol team has a bull's-eye on its back.
Friday, Grand Valley took its best shot.
Then again, Bristol was its own worst enemy in holding off the Mustangs, 76-63.
The Panthers shot 7 of 33 to start the game, including going 0 of 10 to start the second quarter.
However, Johnny Simcox's bucket with 3:33 left before halftime was Bristol's first field goal of the second quarter, giving Bristol a 20-17 lead. It was the start of a 10-0 run.
"We do a lot of competition shooting, trying to put some pressure on the guys as they are taking shots," said Giesy, whose team shot 29 of 79 from the floor and 3 of 22 from 3-point range. "We try to shoot game shots as much as possible. It's a battle for every team to shoot game shots at game speed. That's something we're trying to do as we go along.
"... I heard Bobby Knight speak this summer. He said pick one or two things to be really good at. That's what we're trying to do, which is our pressure defense and getting the ball up and down the floor."
Chad Oliver, who had 24 points and was 11 of 14 from the foul line, was 8 of 8 from the stripe in the second quarter.
"He's struggled at the beginning of the season," Giesy said. "He's picking it up gradually. He's had few games he's shot like that. In practice, he's a 75-80 percent foul shooter."
Bristol (14-0, 7-0 Northeastern Athletic Conference) found its mojo in the third quarter, with Oliver on the bench.
Zak Dibell, who had nine points, and Logan Koeth, who added 10, accounted for Bristol's first five baskets to give Bristol a 47-41 edge.
Then, Brandon Lee, who had a two-pointer and a 3, pushed the lead to 52-44.
In the final minute, Lee passed to Oliver, who came off the bench in the final minute of the third, and promptly hit a 3.
"We couldn't get it going, our level of play we expect to be at," Giesy said. "We tried to get some guys some different looks. (Oliver) got tired for a spell, so I wanted to sit him out. I thought some guys were turning things around that I wanted to give them a little more minutes than they usually get."
Bristol junior forward Gary Hopson injured his shoulder this week in practice. Giesy said has yet to see an orthopedic doctor, but said Hopson is most likely out for the regular season and into the postseason.
"Since PV, we have stressed getting the ball inside out," Giesy said. "Good things happen from that. Gary was no doubt our best post player. Losing that (presence) really hurts. It's something we have to work with the other guys and hopefully they can fill in the void. They aren't as big and strong. They have box out earlier and more often and be a little more efficient underneath."
Grand Valley held a 40-39 rebounding edge with Jake Vormelker having 11 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Josh Kovats had 13 points, while Gabe Kovats added 10. Stanley Sirrine added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
"He had a really good game," Giesy said of Vormelker.
The Mustangs (2-10, 2-5) took one last shot at the Panthers as Vormelker's putback cut the Bristol lead to 65-61. Grand Valley, which shot 26 of 59 from the field, could get no closer.
"I have very happy with the intensity and heart they came out with," said Grand Valley coach Luke Strohm, whose team shot 2 of 16 from 3-point range. "We challenged them before the game to not let anyone play harder than them. They came out and stepped to the challenge of trying to take down the lone, undefeated team in the area.
"I'm very happy of the way my guys played. A couple of those 3s go down that didn't go down and it's a different story."
Tuesday, Grand Valley hosts Maplewood, while Bristol is at Ledgemont. The last time Bristol and Ledgemont played, the Panthers escaped with a three-point win.
"Nice little test for us on the road, leading up to tournament," Giesy said. "Everything from now on is geared to be ready for tournament whether we win or lose. Tonight, we took a step backwards. We didn't take a step forward and that hurts."