POCONO SUMMIT - It had been five years since the Pleasant Valley girls' basketball team played for a Mountain Valley Conference championship.
Tuesday night, the Lady Bears made that a stat of the past.
Second-seeded Pleasant Valley used some good defensive pressure and its size down low to knock off third-seeded East Stroudsburg South in the MVC semi-finals, 47-40. Kasey Meckes led the locals with 13 points, while forwards Kelecia Harris and Dalian Salmon combined to score 18. The Bears will be seeking their first conference title since 2005 when they face off with No. 1 Pocono Mountain West on Friday.
"I think the girls do really well defensively and I think it helps us make up for some things that we struggle with offensively," said Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky. "When we have our bigs in it is a better situation. Our bigs help us out and when we have to play without them it really hurts us. I'm hoping next game they will play smarter and not jump over peoples' backs and stay out of foul trouble."
It was the Bears' defensive intensity early on that helped them stake to an early lead. South was able to draw to within one (10-9) in the first, but Pleasant Valley used an 8-0 run toward the end of the quarter to go up 18-11 at the end of one.
Pleasant Valley opened up in a diamond-trap press and dropped into a 2-3 zone. The plan seemed to work as the Bears forced the Cavaliers into seven first-quarter turnovers. Six different players scored for the Bears in the quarter, including Harris who tallied eight quick points mostly on post moves.
However, South came alive in the second. Once down by as many as ten (24-14), the Cavs made a run behind the shooting of freshman Lisa Steakin and went into the break down just one point. Steakin hit two long three-pointers late which made the score 28-27 in favor of the Bears. Steakin actually had a chance to give her Cavs the lead, but missed two free throws with nine seconds to go in the half.
At the same time, Meckes finally came alive for the Bears after a slow start. The senior point guard tallied six in the second and accounted for a team-high 13 by the time the game was over.
"Well, (South) was definitely on fire in the second quarter," said Meckes. "At halftime coach told us that we had to pick it up. We gave up 16 points in the quarter and we weren't going to win if we continued to play like that.
"We are happy to have won. When we came off the court, we celebrated for a few seconds. But now our minds are already focused on Friday."
In order to slow down the outside shooting for Lisa Steakin and her sister Tara, Gauronsky t