BANGOR - Ken Piontkowski could not have asked his Pleasant Valley boys' basketball team to play any better defense than they did on the last play of their district playoff game with Bangor.
The Bears had two defenders in the face of the Slaters' Andy Mulitsch and even forced him to make a shot-fake in order to regain his balance.
It didn't matter.
Down by one with 12 seconds to go, Bangor drew up a play for their leading scorer. Mulitsch came off a number of screens, caught the ball on the wing and dribbled up to the top of the key. Richie Irving, who was in charge of mirroring Mulitsch wherever he went throughout the night, pressured him the whole way. Mulitsch stopped once he got to the top of the key as a second Bear defender stepped up to stop his penetration. Mulitsch pumped, got his feet under him and let the ball fly.
The crowd held its collective breath on both sides until Multisch's shot swished through the net with about three seconds remaining. Out of timeouts, Pleasant Valley quickly got the ball inbounds. However, the Bears fumbled the ball as the last few seconds ticked off the clock. When the horn sounded, the Slaters had escaped with the 37-35 District 11 Class AAAA first-round victory.
"We couldn't have defended the play any better," said Piontkowski, who was at a loss for words afterward. "(Mulitsch's) prayers were answered. Ours weren't."
Pleasant Valley (11-13) led the entire game up until the three-minute-mark of the fourth quarter. Bangor's Alex Colton hit a three-pointer from the right wing to give the Slaters their first lead of the night at 34-33.
As was the case for most of the night, scoring was at a premium Two minutes and forty-four seconds ticked off between Colton's triple and the next points of the game. The Bears' Nick Stanovick was fouled as he attacked the rim with 16 seconds left in regulation. The junior was as cool as ice at the line; sinking both free throws with the Bangor crowd chanting in his ears. Bangor got up the court and called timeout with 12 seconds left.
"At that point we were feeling pretty good," said Piontkowski. "Stanovick had just stepped up and made the two biggest free throws of his career. We knew we needed to get just one more stop. One defensive stop stood between us living to fight another day. I thought we played it perfectly. (Mulitsch) just threw up a shot and it went it."
The rest is history, as Mulitsch's game-winner sends Bangor (21-3) on to face No. 2 Liberty in the second round of districts.
Stanovick hit four three-pointers on the night and scored a game-high 16 points. In fact, all five of the Bears' field goals in the first half were three-pointers. Stanovick hit three, while Mike Sharpe and Irving each had one.
As one would expect, the Bears were stunned afterward. Despite reaching the district playoffs for the first time in five years, no one wanted to look on the bright side.
"That's what really stinks," said Piontkowski. "This group of seniors has worked so hard to get to this point. For it to end this way... they deserve better than this.
"If this happened last year I could have said that it will be okay and that we will get them next time. There is no next time for a bunch of these guys. This was their only chance."
Sharpe 2-0-0-5, Stanovick 4-4-4-16, Irving 1-3-4-6, Wild 1-0-0-2, Bok 1-2-2-4, Brown 1-0-0-2, Guadagna 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 10-9-10-35.
Lavalva 0-0-0-0, Mulitsch 5-0-0-12, Ammermann 0-5-6-5, Carey 1-0-0-2, Bouch 0-1-2-1, Reider 1-1-4-4, Ringland 2-1-3-5, Colton 3-0-0-8. TOTALS: 12-8-15-37.
Pleasant Vy. 10 9 11 5 - 35
Bangor 6 8 12 11 - 37
Three-Pointers: PV- Stanovick 4, Sharpe, Irving; B - Mulitsch 2, Colton 2, Reider.