Start of game is key as PV tops Bristol

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Brook Songer of Bristol puts up a shot in the key as Ashley Hall (3) and Olivia Holden (5) of Pymatuning Valley defend on Monday night at Bristol.

BRISTOLVILLE — Bristol girls basketball coach John King has been searching and preaching for a way to get the Panthers playing their best straight out of the locker room. It appeared he had done that as his troops took on visiting Pymatuning Valley on Monday night.

The Panthers, however, came up empty on a handful of layups in the opening minutes and soon found themselves fighting out of a trap they never quite shook free of in a 49-31 loss in Northeastern Athletic Conference play.

“When the game first started, we missed four wide-open layups,” King said. I thought we should’ve been up, 8-2. There was a trickle effect from there. Things weren’t going our way and we hung our heads.

“We have to find a way to get the girls focused off the jump. What happened is we got open looks on shots we usually make. We missed and it was demoralizing. It’s natural to hang your head. That’s why I took the early timeout. I told them if we make the layups, we’re up, 8-2, to start the game.”

Instead of holding that six-point advantage, the Panthers (4-5, 3-4) quickly found themselves behind, 21-2, following a 19-0 Lakers’ run that began with 5:32 to play in the first period and didn’t come to a close until Hailee Elza netted back-to-back buckets for Bristol with 5:26 to play in the first half. At that point, the Lakers (6-4, 3-3) were up, 21-6. The half ended with PV holding a 26-11 edge.

Seven different Lakers tallied at least a point during the run.

“We got out to a nice start,” PV coach Jeff Compan said. “The other day (in an overtime loss to Windham) it was just the opposite. (A good start) eases everyone’s tension a bit. I told the girls the other day that championships teams put the hammer down early. Bristol is a tough team. They got us back on our heels a bit. That cushion we got at the beginning was nice to have.”

The Panthers managed to open the second half the very way King hoped they’d open the game. Brenna Rimer used two steals that ended in layups and a conventional three-point play to net seven points, Elza scored five points and Kendyl Switzer chipped in with three more as Bristol pulled to within six, 32-26, with 3:36 to play in the third period.

The Panthers had fought back into the contest without scoring more than six consecutive points during any stretch, but did outscore the Lakers, 15-6, over the first 4:24 of the second half.

“We didn’t do anything differently,” King said. “I let them try and make decisions as far as what the other team is in defensively. We started to talk and things started to go our way. We got the momentum there. The charge call against Switzer switched the momentum back (to PV) and it killed us.”

“We fought all the way back. We just can’t put ourselves in that kind of hole. We can’t spot a team like PV 19 points. Cutting it back to six is pretty impressive to me.”

“They were pressuring our girls up front,” Compan said. “They make it so you can never throw a lazy pass or have an easy possession. They were always out in our shorts. They did a nice job maintaining their intensity. It’s a credit to them that they never quit fighting. That game was closer than it appears.”

Two minutes later, Pymatuning Valley held a 38-26 lead and expanded that advantage to 43-26 with an 11-0 run to close the third quarter. Morgan Silvers scored on consecutive putbacks during the spurt and four other Lakers netted two points each.

Ashley Hall paced the Lakers with 16 points, Silvers had 10 and Madison Hurst added eight.

Elza led the Panthers with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Rimer chipped in with nine points and five steals.