Midway through the second period of Thursday night's game, Pleasant Valley head coach Ken Piontkowski admitted to seeing a change in his squad's defensive intensity. After meandering through a period and a half of play against Northampton, the increase in focus came just in time, as the Bears thwarted off early deficits to take a 52-42 non-league win over the Konkrete Kids.
With the end of the regular season rapidly approaching, winning is vital for the Bears, as they entered their contest with Northampton with a 5-8 record.
Riding the inside strength of senior center Jon Pazienza's 25 points and 14 rebounds, the Bears overcame a five-point deficit at halftime to outscore the K-Kids 13-4 in the third frame and go on to the much-needed win.
"The win was huge," Pazienza admitted. "It can't be stressed enough that every game down the stretch is going to be huge for us. It's really important to me, with it being my senior season, to approach each game the same way, with the same intensity."
Following an early Northampton bucket to start the second half, the Bears went on a 13-0 run to close the third frame, before a Tyler Nicholas lay-up with nine seconds left gave the Bears a 36-32 lead, going into the final session.
Both sides were pretty even as the Bears held a 43-37 advantage with three minutes remaining in the game. A Pazienza put-back was followed by consecutive fast break lay-ups by Marquis Brown to give his team a 49-37 lead with 1:42 left.
The Bears went 3-4 from the foul line over the remainder of the game to maintain the lead and manage the win.
"I told the guys that every game from now on is pretty much, if not an absolute must-win, it's pretty close," coach Piontkowski stated.
Early on in the game, Northampton followed a game plan of pounding the ball inside to Piefka Stonewall and Alquinton McNeal, who scored with ease. However, Coach Piontkowski credits his interior defensive effort of a few individuals for putting a stop to Northampton's inside attack.
"I think (Dakota) Neubert did a great job on Stonewall," he said. "He picked up some fouls early, and sat a little, but once he got back in he showed why he's our defensive stopper as far as the big guys are concerned."
In the game, other than Pazienza (10-12 from the floor), and his double-double, Bryan Sharpe had a good outing, scoring eight points, collecting four steals and dishing out six assists.
Nicholas 2-0-2-4, Azar 1-0-0-3, Oplinger 1-1-2-3, Stonewall 5-0-3-10, Cook 2-2-4-6, Hudock 0-0-0-0, McNeal 6-4-4-16. TOTALS: 17-7-15-42.
Brown 3-3-7-9, Mikulski 1-0-0-3, Nevarez 0-0-0-0, Robinson 0-2-2-2, Hosier 1-1-2-3, Deegan 0-2-2-2, Pazienza 10-5-7-25, Sharpe 2-2-2-8, Neubert 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-15-22-52.
N'ampton 16 12 4 10 - 42
Pleasant Vy. 7 16 13 16 - 52
Three pointers: Northampton – Azar 1; Pleasant Valley – Sharpe 2, Mikulski 1.