POCONO SUMMIT - It had been five years since the Pleasant Valley girls' basketball team played for a Mountain Valley Conference championship.
Tuesday night, the Lady Bears made that a stat of the past.
Second-seeded Pleasant Valley used some good defensive pressure and its size down low to knock off third-seeded East Stroudsburg South in the MVC semi-finals, 47-40. Kasey Meckes led the locals with 13 points, while forwards Kelecia Harris and Dalian Salmon combined to score 18. The Bears will be seeking their first conference title since 2005 when they face off with No. 1 Pocono Mountain West on Friday.
"I think the girls do really well defensively and I think it helps us make up for some things that we struggle with offensively," said Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky. "When we have our bigs in it is a better situation. Our bigs help us out and when we have to play without them it really hurts us. I'm hoping next game they will play smarter and not jump over peoples' backs and stay out of foul trouble."
It was the Bears' defensive intensity early on that helped them stake to an early lead. South was able to draw to within one (10-9) in the first, but Pleasant Valley used an 8-0 run toward the end of the quarter to go up 18-11 at the end of one.
Pleasant Valley opened up in a diamond-trap press and dropped into a 2-3 zone. The plan seemed to work as the Bears forced the Cavaliers into seven first-quarter turnovers. Six different players scored for the Bears in the quarter, including Harris who tallied eight quick points mostly on post moves.
However, South came alive in the second. Once down by as many as ten (24-14), the Cavs made a run behind the shooting of freshman Lisa Steakin and went into the break down just one point. Steakin hit two long three-pointers late which made the score 28-27 in favor of the Bears. Steakin actually had a chance to give her Cavs the lead, but missed two free throws with nine seconds to go in the half.
At the same time, Meckes finally came alive for the Bears after a slow start. The senior point guard tallied six in the second and accounted for a team-high 13 by the time the game was over.
"Well, (South) was definitely on fire in the second quarter," said Meckes. "At halftime coach told us that we had to pick it up. We gave up 16 points in the quarter and we weren't going to win if we continued to play like that.
"We are happy to have won. When we came off the court, we celebrated for a few seconds. But now our minds are already focused on Friday."
In order to slow down the outside shooting for Lisa Steakin and her sister Tara, Gauronsky turned to a 3-2 zone in the second half. Her plan worked once again as the Bears did not give up a single three-pointer in the last 16 minutes.
Meanwhile, Pleasant Valley's offense continued to score. Back-to-back triples from Amber Chieffo and Meckes opened the Bears' lead to 42-31 as they outscored the Cavs 14-4 in the quarter.
Although South refused to go away in the fourth and started out with an 8-0 run, Pleasant Valley scored just enough to preserve the victory.
Harris finished with 10 points for the Bears, while Salmon added eight. Megan Hardy and Chieffo each chipped in five.
Since Pleasant Valley won five consecutive MVC championships from 2000 to 2005, it has played in just one conference title game. This Friday the Bears will have a shot at bringing the trophy back to Brodheadsville.
"We are very excited," said Gauronsky. "The girls have worked so hard. I am just so happy for them to be playing on Friday. I hope that we can continue to play well and hopefully good things will happen."
Swinton 0-0-0-0, Eck 0-0-0-0, L. Steakin 4-8-12-18, Marshall 2-0-1-4, Menio 0-3-4-3, Homer 2-1-2-5, T. Steakin 3-2-2-10. TOTALS: 11-14-21-40.
Meckes 4-3-8-13, Chieffo 2-0-3-5, Sisco 1-0-0-2, Harris 5-0-0-10, McGill 2-0-0-5, Hardy 2-1-2-5, Kregeloh 0-0-0-0, Salmon 4-0-0-8. TOTALS: 20-4-13-47.
ES South 11 16 4 9 - 40
Pleasant Vy 18 10 14 5 - 47
Three-Pointers: ESS - L. Steakin 2, T. Steakin 2; PV - Meckes 2, Chieffo 1.