NEWTON FALLS - Alli Pavlik had a phone conversation last Monday night with a friend who delivered some good news.
The call was from Darian Rogers, a member of the Champion girls' basketball team. Rogers informed Pavlik that the Golden Flashes had defeated the Newton Falls Tigers, who were previously undefeated in the National Division of the All American Conference.
At that point, it was game on for Thursday night's showdown for the AAC, National Division crown between the Tigers and the Lakeview Bulldogs, who successfully defended their 2012 title with a 53-50 win.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview’s Alli Pavlik, front, loses control of the ball as Destinee Hudson of Newton Falls defends during the second quarter of their game on Thursday. Lakeview won, 53-50.
"I was on the bus when I called her and asked her, 'Did you win?' " said Pavlik, a junior guard for the Bulldogs. "She said, 'We won.' Everyone on our bus was going crazy. Then we knew we aren't sharing this league. It's ours to take, and we actually did."
The Bulldogs (15-5) secured the championship with a 9-1 record. The Tigers are 16-3 and 8-2 in the AAC.
It wasn't the prettiest of games as the teams combined for 59 turnovers (35 by the Tigers and 24 by the Bulldogs). The biggest turnover occurred when Lakeview's Lizzy Konitsney stepped in front of a Newton Falls pass and immediately flipped the ball to Pavlik. An easy layup followed to give Pavlik a game-high 26 points and the Bulldogs a 53-50 lead.
The Tigers called a timeout with 5.7 seconds remaining. Their final chance to tie the score ended with another turnover.
Konitsney had a solid game, scoring six points and leading the Bulldogs in rebounding with nine.
Nothing stood out more than her steal late in the game.
"I saw the ball coming, and I just grabbed it," Konitsney said. "It was right in my line of sight."
It seemed appropriate that the deciding play was a turnover. Both teams were aggressive on defense, forcing bad passes and numerous traveling calls.
"Our defense was pretty good," Konitsney said. "We had a slow start, but we came back to tie it at halftime. We came back in the third quarter. It was hard to hold on to the lead, but we got it done."
The third quarter proved to be the downfall for the Tigers, who led 14-11 after the first quarter and went into halftime tied at 30. Newton Falls managed just two points in the third period on a fielder by Destinee Hutson. The Bulldogs scored 12 points in the quarter to take a 42-32 lead into the final eight minutes.
"Tonight was a game of runs, and our third quarter put us in position to handle the surge we knew we were going to get in the fourth quarter," Bulldogs coach Adam Lewis said. "They play hard and aggressive. I thought the girls were prepared. They did a heck of a job tonight."
The Tigers came out strong in the fourth period to quickly tie the score at 44. Brooke Barreca opened the session with a three-point play, and Hutson followed with a 3-point shot. Konitsney scored on a short jumper before Victoria Workman made two free throws and Barreca scored on a jumper to tie the score.
"What a group of young women to be able to take 60 seconds, refocus and regain their composure and go on a run like they did in the fourth quarter," Tigers coach Mark Baker said. "Those are two great basketball teams. This was a great atmosphere. I told our kids, 'You may never get to play in front of a crowd as big as this.' "
Newton Falls took its first lead since early in the third quarter (50-49) on another fielder by Barreca, who finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Pavlik made two foul shots to regain the lead for Lakeview.
The night started poorly for Pavlik, who accidentally put on a jersey with the number 45 (she wears 15) and wore it through warmups. It didn't get better when she rolled an ankle early in the first quarter. She walked it off for a few minutes and returned.
"It hurt way bad," Pavlik said. "When I got out I said, 'I can't sit.' I told myself, 'Pull it together and keep walking on it.' I told myself, 'I will not sit this game.' "
Newton Falls is at Garfield Saturday afternoon. Lakeview hosts Howland Saturday afternoon.