With a record hovering around the .500 mark at the midway point of the season, every game is crucial for Pleasant Valley.
Against Lehighton on Tuesday night, the Bears played like a team well aware of their situation.
Pleasant Valley displayed intensity on defense and on the boards as it rolled to a 60-36 Mountain Valley Conference victory.
"We're trying to qualify for both the league and district playoffs," said Pleasant Valley coach Nadia Gauronsky. "We need all the wins we can get. Every game is important for us right now."
Despite struggling from the field in the first half, the Bears took charge early and were in control the entire way.
Thanks to a trapping fullcourt press, Pleasant Valley jumped out to a 10-0 lead and was up 19-7 after a quarter. By halftime, Pleasant Valley had built a comfortable 39-19 lead.
The Bears (6-6, 2-2) opened the commanding advantage despite missing 30 field goal attempts in the half. They made up for that with an incredible 22 offensive rebounds in the first two quarters and by forcing 18 turnovers over that span.
"We're a very young team, and because of that, our offense isn't always going to be there," said Gauronsky. "But even if we aren't shooting well, I expect us to play hard and battle every game and that's what we did tonight."
One Pleasant Valley player who was able to find the range was Kelecia Harris. Harris scored 17 points in the opening half. While the rest of the Bears were shooting just 8-for-35 (23 percent) from the field in the half, Harris was 8-for-11 (73 percent).
"Kelecia is our rock," said Gauronsky. "With all the sophomores and inexperienced players around her on the court, she provides the solid foundation that we need.
"She's not only our top offensive player, but she does all the little things. She's always in the right place, she rebounds, she hustles all over the court. Kelecia is a great example of how to play the game for all of our younger kids."
The Bears' lead grew to as many as 30 points early in the fourth quarter as the reserves for both teams got plenty of court time.
Harris finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Bears. Arden Cisluycis added 10 points and Amber Chieffo and Mackenzie Dorney chipped in eight points apiece. Cisluycis and Chieffo both knocked down a pair of threes in the game while Dorney flashed some nice moves in the lane.
"Pleasant Valley has a nice program and is very well coached," said Lehighton coach Ray Bressi. "They hurt us in some of the same areas we've been hurt all season. They forced us into too many turnovers and overpowered us on the boards."
Despite that, Bressi saw some bright spots in his team's performance.
"We try to tell our girls not to look at the scoreboard. We just want them to keep playing the game hard," said Bressi. "We're a very young team, so I'm looking for improvement every time we take the court.
"I saw that tonight and I feel good about our effort. I think Kasaundra [Barclay] and Tiffany [Thompson] both did some really nice things on the court.
Barclay finished with 11 points and six rebounds while Thompson added nine points and eight boards for Lehighton (1-9, 1-4).
Cisluycis 3-2-2-10, Stanovick 0-0-0-0, Dekmar 2-1-2-5, Aldinger 0-1-2-1, Chieffo 3-0-0-8, Morales 0-0-0-0, Harris 9-1-2-19, Stanley 0-0-0-0, Miller 2-1-2-5, Krcic 0-0-0-0, Dorney 3-2-2-8, Frigola 0-0-0-0, Craig 1-0-0-2, Fields1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 24-8-12-60.
Barclay 5-0-0-11, Magyar 0-2-2-2, Yurasits 3-0-0-7, Evans 0-0-0-0, Durishin 3-1-1-7, Smith 0-0-0-0, Pell 0-0-0-0, Daniels 0-0-0-0, Thompson 3-3-5-9, Cordova 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-6-8-36.
Pleasant Vy. 19 20 16 5 - 60
Lehighton 7 12 8 9 - 36
Three-pointers: PV – Cisluycis 2, Chieffo 2. L – Barclay 1, Yurasits 1.