SWIFTWATER It was the perfect start for Pleasant Valley.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bears, the rest of the contest belonged to Pocono Mountain West.
Seeking its third consecutive Mountain Valley Conference title, PV used an inside bucket from Mackenzie Dorney, a three-pointer by Arden Cisluysis and a pair of free throws from Jordan Meckes to grab a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into Friday night's championship game.
That advantage didn't last long, though, as a talented and athletic Panther squad not only got back in the game but raced away in the second half for an eventual 48-22 victory.
"Believe it or not, with this team this season there was no panic," said PM West coach Stacy Perryman. "Last season a 7-0 deficit probably would have been a struggle for us. This year they realize we may be down but we can make that up.
"I was concerned with Pleasant Valley because of their experience, and that they've been here before. They're very disciplined and they know how to execute. In the first half they got a couple backdoors on us but we made some adjustments ... Once our players get loose, they start playing like they know how. I guess there may have been some first-quarter jitters."
Once those jitters were gone, it was bad news for the Bears (16-8).
The Panthers (21-3) upped their defensive pressure and scored the final six points of the first frame. Steph Davis hit a driving bucket early in the second quarter and then followed it up with a three-pointer to put West up by a 13-9 margin. Perryman's club never trailed after that.
"West is more athletic than us and their athleticism helped them tonight," said Pleasant Valley mentor Nadia Gauronsky. "Early on we moved the ball around and were patient. We didn't want to get into a running game with them, which you could see by the second half what happens when you do."
Kiki Russell pulled the Bears within 15-13 with a driving shot less than a minute into the second half. But back-to-back treys by Jackie Benitez started the Panthers on a 23-2 run that put the game away.
During that stretch, league MVP Ramonia Benitez converted in the open floor multiple times while Davis again hit two big shots from the perimeter.
"Steph is a very unique player because we put her in the 4 position but she's truly a guard. In the 4 position it's a mismatch. With her ability to shoot, we can use that to our advantage."
Davis finished with 10 points while Benitez had a game-high 15. Jackie Benitez ended the contest with 12.
For the Bears, Russell tallied a team-high eight points.
"We had some defensive lapses and they took advantage of them," said Gauronsky. "They're a good team, there's no question about it.
"The last two years we had (the title) and now they have some seniors and you've got to figure that they wanted it a little bit more. We played the best we could, but it just wasn't good enough tonight. I'm still proud of my players. Hopefully they will bounce back at districts."
Pleasant Valley will begin district play on Friday where it appears they will be the No. 6 seed and face Parkland.
Meckes 1-2-3-4, Cisluysis 1-0-0-3, Dekmar 0-0-0-0, Shaneberger 0-0-0-0, Jiminez 0-0-0-0, Krcic 0-0-0-0, Fields 0-0-0-0, Sharpe 1-1-3-3, Miller 0-0-0-0, Russell 3-2-4-8, Dorney 1-2-2-4, Lozier 0-0-2-0. TOTALS: 7-7-14-22.
Walters 2-0-1-4, J. Benitez 5-0-0-12, R. Benitez 6-2-4-15, Davis 4-0-0-10, Jones 0-0-0-0, Yocum 1-1-2-3, Murray 1-0-0-2, Boas 0-0-0-0, Dunham 0-0-0-0, Jiminez 1-0-0-2, Flaherty 0-0-0-0, Bautieller 0-0-0-0, Wilson 0-0-0-0, Goldman 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-3-7-48.
Pleasant Vy. 7 4 4 7 - 22
PM West 6 9 14 19 - 48
Three-pointers: PV - Cisluysis 1; PMW - J. Benitez 2, Davis 2, R. Benitez 1.