POCONO SUMMIT – After playing in two barnburners earlier this season, Stroudsburg and Pleasant Valley's Mountain Valley Conference semi-final matchup did not disappoint.
Things didn't start out very well for Pleasant Valley, as it found itself down by 14 points after the first quarter. Still, the Bears never quit and thanks to a spark from senior Selwyn Wright, fought their way back into the game. The Bears went on to hit their free throws late and defeated the Mounties in overtime, 48-41 to advance to their first MVC championship game under the new playoff format.
"I have never been as disgusted with a team and as proud of a team in the same night as I was tonight," said Pleasant Valley head coach Ken Piontkowski. "We came out down 17-3 and it didn't look like our heads were in the game. We looked like deer in headlights. Then, for us to go on the run that we did in the second half, I was as proud as I could be.
"We could have easily folded and said it was over but we didn't. Then Selwyn's dunk just energized everybody. It was like watching two different teams play. It had absolutely nothing to do with coaching because I just sat there and watched basically."
Pleasant Valley struggled at the start and managed just three points in the first quarter due in large part to eight turnovers. The Bears had trouble on the defensive end as well and surrendered 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
The locals started to get things turned around in the second. The Bears forced Stroudsburg into eight turnovers, allowed only six points and trailed 23-13 at the break.
The Bears' defensive intensity changed at the start of the third quarter and allowed them to get a few quick buckets. The Mounties answered with some buckets of their own and quieted the run. It left Pleasant Valley down 14 points and back where it had started.
Then, with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter, everything changed.
Wright caught the ball in the left corner and saw an opening along the baseline. He drove hard, took off and delivered with a right-handed throw down to awaken the PV crowd and his teammates. His one play changed the whole complexion of the game.
"Marquis set a screen for me and I got open in the corner," recalled Wright, who finished with 15 points. "I saw the lane open up so I decided to drive in. I got up and dunked and everyone got hyped. I dunked against Pocono Mountain East earlier in the year and everyone got excited, so I thought it might work again tonight.
"It feels good to be playing Friday. It's my first time. We lost to West last year (in the first round) and now we get a chance to redeem ourselves."
From that point on, which was the 4:04 mark of the third quarter, Pleasant Valley went on to outscore Stroudsburg 33-11. The Bears turned it over just two times after that and held the Mounties to six points and one field goal from the fourth quarter on.
Brown stepped up in overtime and scored six of his game-high 17 points in the extra frame. The sophomore was as cool as ever at the free throw line and sank all four of his attempts in the final two minutes. Wright was also 5-for-5 from the line.
"When I get to the line, all I think about is keeping the ball high," said Brown, who grabbed 12 rebounds and finished with his tenth double-double of the year. "Coach P tells me that in practice every day. He tells me to not take the ball over my head and they will go in.
"It feels great tonight. We have been through a lot of ups and downs and a lot of tough losses throughout the season. We came out to win tonight."
The win is Pleasant Valley's first in the relatively new playoff format that started a few years ago and is in search of its first conference title since 2003.
The Bears will square off with Pocono Mountain West on Friday at 8 p.m. at Stroudsburg for the Mountain Valley Conference championship.
Northern 0-0-0-0, Cayo 0-0-0-0, Kaiser 3-0-2-6, Clouse 0-0-0-0, Brandt 0-0-0-0, Clowney 5-5-7-15, Battle 5-2-2-14, Bradshaw 0-0-0-0, Mohamed 2-0-0-4, Watson 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 16-7-11-41.
Brown 6-5-6-17, Wright 5-5-5-15, Jones 3-0-6-6, Dekmar 1-0-0-2, Shivers 2-1-3-6, Howard 0-2-2-2, Getz 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-13-22-48.
Stroudsburg 17 6 12 1 5 - 41
Pleasant Vy 3 10 11 12 12 - 48
Three-pointers: S – Battle 2; PV – Shivers 1.