First, it was their focus that slipped. And then it was the huge advantage they had gained.
But fortunately for Pleasant Valley, the lead never escaped and the Bears hung on to earn a 58-51 Mountain Valley Conference win over visiting East Stroudsburg South.
"For whatever reason, we lose focus," said PV head coach Ken Piontkowski, whose team led by 15 points with under six minutes to play. "One of the things I said before the season started was we have to make sure we're focused and play entire games, because if we don't it's going to cost us.
"We have not played a full game of basketball yet. We don't stay intense, we don't stay focused for 32 minutes. We did nothing fundamentally right from about the five-minute mark (of the fourth quarter) until there was 52 seconds left. Then we had help on defense and we boxed out. I guess they eventually fell back on their fundamentals to help secure a win."
Led by the inside attack of Marquis Brown and the outside shot of Nick Stanovick, the Bears (5-3; 2-0) jumped out early and held a nine-point advantage at the break.
The margin continued to swell in the second half, but when it seemed like the game was comfortably in hand that's when it almost got away.
The Cavaliers' Kwame Simmons hit three driving baskets during a 14-4 stretch that pulled ES South (3-5; 0-2) within five points with 1:20 left on the clock.
Stanovick, however, collected a pair of defensive rebounds and made 4-of-4 free throws in the closing moments to seal the victory.
"Give South credit for not giving up and really getting after it at the end," said Piontkowski. "If you learn lessons from poor performances and still get out with a win, you have to feel fortunate."
The Bears were fortunate to get the ball down low early in the contest to Brown, who ended with 14 points and 10 rebounds. His presence not only provided points in the paint, but also allowed Stanovick (17 points) to get some looks from the perimeter.
"That's always part of our plan," said Piontkowski. "We just want to play fundamental basketball so we want to try and attack inside-out."
That strategy and execution put the visitors behind the eight ball.
"We dug ourselves a hole early," said Eastburg mentor Rich Baker. "(Brown) made some tough shots, and he made some strong moves there. We also tried very hard to stay on (Stanovick). He can shoot it. He has a quick release and he knocked down some shots. That really gave them that gap."
Actually, the gap could've been wider but a 2-of-13 effort at the line (before Stanovick converted the final four attempts) prevented that.
"I hate to be a glass is half-empty kind of guy but we missed a bunch of free throws or we could have had a much bigger working margin," said Piontkowski, who also received 11 points from Selwyn Wright. "We did some decent stuff. Our defensive intensity was a little better than what it's been.
"We kept them at a little bit of an arm's length most of the evening and we had some good stretches. I guess the bad ones won't go away overnight but hopefully we can make them shorter as the season goes on."
In the JV game, the Cavaliers earned a 54-38 win.
Simmons 8-1-5-18, McLaughlin 5-2-4-12, Howell 1-3-4-5, Clarke 1-0-0-2, Nickman 0-2-4-2, Quick 0-0-0-0, Mercado 2-1-2-6, Franklin 3-0-0-6. TOTALS: 20-9-19-51.
Brown 7-0-2-14, Shivers 2-0-4-5, Howard 2-1-3-5, Wright 5-1-4-11, Dekmar 0-0-0-0, Gerolimatos 0-0-0-0, Jones 2-0-0-4, Stanovick 5-4-4-17, Guadagna 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 24-6-17-58.
ES South 14 7 10 20 - 51
Pleasant Vy. 17 13 15 13 - 58
Three-pointers: ES South - Simmons 1, Mercado 1; Pleasant Vy. - Stanovick 3, Shivers 1.