POCONO SUMMIT Moral victories only mean one thing a loss.
So moments after Pleasant Valley gave top-seeded Pocono Mountain West all it could handle in Wednesday's Mountain Valley Conference semifinal matchup, Bears' head coach Ken Piontkowski was as matter-of-fact as the result on the scoreboard.
"If you're a parent or a fan, you could call this a moral victory but as a coach you stay away from that," he said. "The bottom line is we wanted to win the game.
"To call it a moral victory is conceding we couldn't have beat those guys and I think we all believe we could have. They are a great team and I was proud of our effort, but I'm not going to call it a moral victory."
Piontkowski's scrappy club went toe-to-toe with the powerful Panthers (19-4). The two teams were tied at the end of the first quarter and at halftime, and there were a total of 12 lead changes. In the end, though, PV simply wore down and dropped a 65-58 decision.
The win lifts PM West into Friday's championship game, where it will face Pocono Mountain East.
"I don't know why everybody's so shocked," said Panther mentor Brad Pensyl. "I would certainly expect nothing less from Pleasant Valley. They clearly outplayed us in the first half and we outplayed them in the second half.
"This was exactly what I expected and it's exactly what we got. This wasn't a case of us overlooking Pleasant Valley. It's a case of them playing really hard."
Despite being short-handed (two PV players sat out due to disciplinary reasons), the Bears came out with energy and maintained it for most of the game.
Eric Wild hit for six early points and PV (11-12) frustrated West's talented point guard Tynell Fortune with a box-and-one to earn a 20-20 tie at the break.
While the Panthers started to use their size more in the third quarter, capitalizing on offensive rebounds and getting the ball inside, the Bears managed to hold their own. Richie Irving, who had the task of guarding Fortune on defense, hit for five points in that third frame a quarter which saw seven of those 12 lead changes and ended with West holding a 41-38 advantage.
Nick Stanovck, who finished with a game-high 16 points, pulled the Bears within 43-42 with a pair of driving baskets early in the fourth, but three dunks from seven-footer Kevin Anema in a 1:20 span not only pushed the lead to 10 points but seemed to mark the beginning of the end for Pleasant Valley.
"Anema had that run where it looked like a dunk competition," said Piontkowski. "He had a bunch in a row there. I turned and told our coaches when it was a 10-point game that we need to make a play now.
"(Mike) Sharpe hit a three and then Stano hits one. Those were big shots. It could have been lights out there but those threes gave us a chance again."
The long-range shots pulled the Bears within 52-48 with 3:25 left to play, but Piontkowski's club could get no closer.
"The guys probably won't admit it, but it looked like we ran out of gas," said Piontkowski. "(West) started taking over on the boards and that pressure up the court wears on you after a while."
Of the Panthers 45 points in the second half, all but two two came in the paint or at the free throw line.
"We ran our offense better and were more aggressive defensively in the second half," said Pensyl. "Our rebounding was also better. We followed up and finished stuff inside that we didn't do earlier."
Besides Stanovick, Sharpe ended with 14 and Irving added 12 for the Bears.
Sharpe 5-2-2-14, Bok 0-1-2-1, Irving 5-1-2-12, Stanovick 6-1-3-16, Brown 3-1-5-7, Guadagna 0-0-0-0, Wild 3-1-2-8. TOTALS: 22-7-16-58.
POCONO MOUNTAIN WEST
Boyle 1-0-1-3, Fortune 2-7-8-11, Collins 3-2-2-8, Brice 1-3-4-5, Vines 0-0-0-0, Anema 6-0-0-12, Dixon 4-3-5-11, Amoroso 2-1-1-5, Scott 4-2-3-10. TOTALS: 23-18-24-65.
Pleas.Vy. 14 6 18 20 - 58
PM West 14 6 21 24 - 65
Three-pointers: Pleasant Valley - Stanovick 3, Sharpe 2, Irving 1, Wild 1; PM West - Boyle 1.