CORTLAND - Although the Lakeview Bulldogs were undefeated going into their All-American Conference, National Division game against Girard, players and coaches alike said they hadn't faced many true tests, especially in the past few weeks.
If they were looking for one, Girard obliged on Thursday night. The Indians clawed to within two points late in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs managed to pull away for a 68-60 win on Thursday night.
Lakeview coach Adam Lewis said his team showed some composure in the win.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview’s Alli Pavlik (15)?tries to maintain control of the ball as she drives to the basket, and Girard’s Megan Payich defends during third-quarter action.
"The past two weeks, we've been talking about that in practice - 'What are we going to do when we're facing some adversity?' " Lewis said. "Tonight was a good example of that. You can't mimic what happened tonight in practice, and I thought the girls responded well.
"I never really felt uncomfortable throughout the fourth quarter. I knew they were confident in what they were doing and they were going to finish this one out."
Lewis had a very good reason for feeling confident: He had Alli Pavlik.
The 5-foot-7 senior amassed 48 points, which fell short of her career-high, 56-point performance against Campbell on Dec. 19. At times, Pavlik carried the Bulldogs (15-0, 8-0 AAC, National), who missed their first 10 shots of the game. The senior drained three 3-pointers in the final 4:40 of that quarter to keep Girard (9-7, 4-3 AAC, National) from running away. Pavlik then sparked a 16-6 run over the first 6 minutes of the second quarter that gave Lakeview a lead it didn't relinquish by scoring the first eight points of the quarter.
Scoring wasn't all Pavlik did for the Bulldogs, as she recorded nine steals - four of those came during Girard's first five possessions of the fourth quarter.
"I feel like I kind of put the team on my back tonight," Pavlik said. "I really wasn't concerned about the points I got. I was just trying to keep the score up, so we weren't going to go down or we weren't going to lose. It just happened that my teammates threw it to me, and I finished it for them."
What helped Pavlik and the Bulldogs get going was a change in the tempo that started in the second quarter. Lakeview made it into an up-and-down, fast-paced game, which allowed the Bulldogs to play in transition. Pavlik, herself, scored at least 16 points on the fast break.
"We're a transition team - anybody in this county knows that that's what we are," Pavlik said. "Girard wanted to play with us tonight, and they did a good job. Those games are fun for us. That's what we talked about all week was having fun, and this was actually a really fun game because Girard never quit."
Girard coach Andy Saxton said his players handled the faster tempo well despite committing 28 turnovers, and it seemed like it, as a Bree Bishop 3-pointer with 1:15 remaining in the game that cut Lakeview's lead to 62-60. The Indians never scored after that point.
Bishop secured a double-double by dropping 25 points and grabbing 20 rebounds.
"We like to play in the halfcourt - we don't like to get in too much of a running game with teams because I have young guards," Saxton said. "We got into a little bit of a running game, but I thought our girls did real well. They handled the pressure, and we had them on the ropes there for a little bit."
Still undefeated 15 games into the season, Pavlik said the pressure is mounting on her and her teammates, especially with some tough matchups in the near future. That won't deter the Bulldogs from dreaming of a perfect regular season, though.
"We have the chance to do something special for our county," Pavlik said. "There's a lot of pressure, but if we play the way we know we can for the rest of these seven games because we have really good competition coming up, I'm sure our team can pull through. But whatever happens, happens."