STROUDSBURG - Same two teams. Same margin of victory. Overtime for the second straight year.
Pleasant Valley won its second straight Mountain Valley Conference girls basketball title Friday night, beating Pocono Mountain West 60-55 at Stroudsburg High School.
Last year the Bears beat the Panthers 52-47 in overtime for the title.
The only returning starter from last year's title team, senior Kelecia Harris led Pleasant Valley to this year's crown, posting 19 points and 22 rebounds.
"I told [Harris] that I feel she's the best player at all times on the floor," said Bears head coach Nadia Gauronsky. "She just hustles and makes up for the errors that we create."
Harris' aggression on the boards helped Pleasant Valley make up an early deficit and allowed them to match baskets with the Panthers for most of the game. But the biggest shot of the night came from senior guard Amber Cheiffo.
After Harris hit the first bucket of overtime, Cheiffo nailed a three-pointer with 2:48 left to put her team ahead 56-51. It marked the first time a team was ahead by more than four since midway through the second quarter and gave the Bears the lead for good.
"That hurt us a lot because it put us in a situation where we were forced to score and then forced to stop them," said Pocono Mountain West Head coach Stacy Perryman. "The way the game was going nobody really was able to get a stop twice. That really made it a two-possession game."
The Panthers cut into the lead. Baskets by Sicole Walters and Tanisha Blake made it 56-55 with 23 seconds left. But Harris and Keri Dekmar each hit a pair of foul shots in the final 20 seconds to seal the win for Pleasant Valley.
After graduating most of last year's starters, this title is especially gratifying for the Bears.
"Our team really wanted this," said Harris. "I played like it was my last game. I knew we could do it because I believe in my girls. Even though they're young, they still have skills."
"They just improved every single game and every single practice," said Gauronsky. "We knew we had the talent, we just didn't know when it would all come together."
Pleasant Valley fell behind 9-0 in the first five minutes of the game and was down 10-6 after Harris went scoreless in the first quarter.
The 5-foot-11 senior started dominating the boards in the second quarter and pulled down eight rebounds just in that period as her team went on an 11-0 run and took a 17-10 lead with 3:02 left in the first half.
The Panthers made up the deficit quickly and the game settled into a back and forth affair.
The Bears tried to pull away early in the second half as Harris scored the first three baskets of the quarter for a 25-21 lead. But the Panthers came right back and took a 27-25 lead on six straight points from Stephanie Davis.
Harris had 12 points in the third quarter, but her team couldn't pull away as a Davis three-pointer tied the game at 36-36 heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was even tighter. Only once in the period did either team lead by more than two points and the lead changed eight times with momentum shifting on every basket.
A pair of Chieffo free throws gave Pleasant Valley a 51-48 lead with 31 seconds left in the game. But Jackie Benitez hit a three-pointer with 18 seconds left to send it to OT.
After a Panther turnover, Harris got her team a 53-51 lead 33 seconds into overtime. They turned it over one more time before Chieffo hit the shot that helped seal the victory.
With the win, the Bears will earn a No. 1 or 2 seed in the District 11 Class AAAA playoffs.
POCONO MOUNTAIN WEST
Watkins 3-0-0-6, J. Benitez 4-2-2-13, R. Benitez 3-5-10-12, Davis 5-6-6-18, Blake 3-0-0-6, Roberts 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-13-18-55.
Meckes 2-3-6-8, Cisuyleic 1-0-0-3, Dekmar 2-4-4-8,Chieffo 4-3-4-13, Harris 8-3-8-19, Miller 2-3-4-7, Dorney 1-0-0-2, Craig 0-0-1-0. TOTALS: 20-16-26-60.
PM West 10 11 15 15 4 – 55
Pleasant Vy. 6 13 17 15 9 – 60
Three-pointers: PMW - J. Benitez 3, Davis 2, R. Benitez 1; PV - Chieffo 2, Meckes 1, Cisluyeis 1.