EAST STROUDSBURG - Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky was concerned about two things heading into her team's District 11 playoff match-up with Liberty.
One thing was the ability of her main offensive threats to stay out of foul trouble. The other was her ball-handlers being able to handle the Hurricanes' defensive pressure.
Unfortunately for Gauronsky, her fears became a reality Friday night.
Kasey Meckes and Kelecia Harris, the Lady Bears' two leading scorers, fouled out early in the fourth quarter and left their team short-handed for the remainder of the contest. However, by then the game was all but over. The Bears turned the ball over 28 times throughout the night and watched as the Hurricanes ran away with the 41-27 victory.
"We knew (Liberty) was going to be aggressive," said Gauronsky. "We told our girls that we had to take care of the basketball, but we obviously didn't do that. It is what it is at this point. What else can I say?"
Pleasant Valley's inability to handle pressure was evident from the get-go. The Bears turned the ball over six times in the first quarter. Still, they were able to take a 7-6 lead when Megan Hardy scored on a lay-up with four seconds to go.
The lead was short-lived, as Liberty's Jody Chickey took the inbound pass across half-court and banked in a three-pointer from about eight feet behind the line to give her team a 9-7 lead after one.
The Bears (18-7) opened the second quarter with more problems and proceeded to turn the ball over on four straight possessions.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes used the extra possessions to their advantage and went on a 7-0 run. Chickey banked in another three-pointer, this time from the wing, and forced Gauronsky into a timeout with the Canes up 16-7. In fact, at the seven-minute mark the Bears had more turnovers (eight) than points (seven).
"I don't attribute it to inexperience," said Gauronsky about the turnovers. "I attribute it to a general lack of confidence when somebody is up in your shorts. You have to make the right decision and be able to prove that you can beat them off the dribble."
Harris scored a lay-up for PV to end the run. The bucket also sparked a 6-0 run for the Bears. They would close the gap to five (18-13), but couldn't get any closer and went into the break down 23-18.
Pleasant Valley was able to get to within three (24-21) after Amber Chieffo converted a lay-up 4:19 in the third quarter, but that is when the wheels fell off. The Bears went on to turn the ball over 10 times in the third quarter, six more times in the fourth quarter and did not score another point until 1:21 remained in the game.
Meckes and Harris also fouled out early in the fourth and did not leave the Bears with many options in their attempt to come back.
"When you depend on a kid for 15 points a game and you can't get them the ball it is going to hurt your offense," Gauronsky said. "Having both Kelly and Kasey foul out in the first minute of the fourth quarter didn't really help our cause."
The Bears improved by 12 games from a year ago. They also captured the school's first MVC title since 2005.
"I don't think the kids ever gave up," said Gauronsky. "Even when we were down 15, 16, 17, they continued to fight.
"Even if we didn't improve our record or win the MVC, it still would have been a successful year in my eyes because they learned the game and they got a lot better."
Gross 0-0-0-0, J. Hilliard 4-0-0-8, Lewis 1-0-0-2, Shumock 2-2-4-6, Doukoure 1-1-2-3, Chickey 5-4-7-16, C. Hilliard 2-1-2-6, Pinter 0-0-0-0, Zerbe 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-8-15-41.
Meckes 1-2-4-4, Chieffo 2-0-4-4, Sisco 0-0-1-0, Harris 3-1-2-7, McGill 0-0-0-0, Hardy 2-2-2-6, Kregeloh 0-0-0-0, Salmon 1-0-1-2, Cisylusis 0-2-2-2, Dorney 0-0-0-0, Craig 1-0-0-2, Dekmar 0-0-2-0, Wiesmeth 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 10-7-8-27.
Liberty 9 14 9 9 - 41
Pleasant Vy 7 11 3 6 - 27
Three-pointers: Liberty - Chickey 2, C. Hilliard 1; Pleasant Valley - None.