STROUDSBURG Following her team's narrow win over Pocono Mountain West in the quarterfinals of the District 11 Class AAAA playoffs, Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky seemed to take a huge sigh of relief.
Gauronsky had just watched her team withstand rallies by the Lady Panthers at the end of both halves of play. She also witnessed Pleasant Valley come up with enough big plays to pull out a 44-42 win.
"I asked (my team) not to let them back into the game," Gauronsky said.
Perhaps she forgot to say, "please," because the mistakes piled up for the Lady Bears as they saw an 11-point first quarter lead and an eight-point fourth quarter lead dissipate before earning the victory and advancing to face Liberty on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Nazareth.
The Bears struggled from the free throw line throughout the game, but more noticeably down the stretch, as they failed to take opportunities to put the game away.
After Keri Dekmar put in one of two charity tosses with 21 seconds remaining, the Bears led 44-40. However, with :10 left, Pocono Mountain West's Jackie Benitez hit two free throws to give her team a chance. Pleasant Valley then mishandled a pass giving the ball back to the Panthers with a chance to tie. The Bears defense came to the rescue, however, forcing a tough shot and then grabbing the rebound to seal the victory.
"We came out aggressive in the beginning, but we definitely had plenty of mental lapses," Gauronsky said about her MVC champion and D-11 tourney No. 1 seeded team. "But give credit to West because they are a very strong, athletic and capable team. They have everyone back next year, too."
PV took a 20-12 lead after one frame off the strength of seven of Kelecia Harris' team-high 11 points.
Harris began the second stanza with two free throws, but that would be all the Lady Bears would muster for the next nine and a half minutes. While Pleasant Valley struggled to find the range, the Panthers were putting together a 19-0 run that eventually gave them a 31-22 lead in the third quarter.
Pleasant Valley then regained composure, and battled back, as Harris' put back and a good take by Dekmar started a 12-2 Bear run that allowed them to retake the lead, 34-32, after three.
In the final period, Pleasant Valley opened up some breathing room as a Dekmar free throw gave her team a 43-35 lead with just under two minutes left.
Jackie Benitez made a driving basket and sister Ramona nailed a trey off an inbounds play to cut it to 43-40. But Pleasant Valley held off the rally to advance to the semifinals.
"We look forward to it," Gauronsky stated. "We actually took Liberty to four overtimes this season so we know it's going to be a challenge."
In the game, Harris hit for 11 points while teammate Amber Chieffo had eight. Arden Cisluycis and Dekmar both netted six.
Pocono Mountain West got a game-high 20 points from Jackie Benitez while sister Ramona added 12.
POCONO MOUNTAIN WEST
Walters 1-0-0-2, J. Benitez 8-2-2-20, R. Benitez 4-3-5-12, Davis 0-2-4-2, Yocum 1-0-3-2, Blake 1-0-0-2, Roberts 1-0-2-2. TOTALS: 16-7-16-42.
Meckes 1-1-2-3, Cisluycis 2-1-2-6, Dekmar 2-2-6-6, Chieffo 3-0-2-8, Harris 3-5-9-11, Miller 2-1-2-5, Dorney 0-1-2-1, Craig 1-2-4-4. TOTALS: 14-13-29-44.
PW West 12 13 7 10 - 42
Pleasant Valley 20 2 12 10 - 44
Three pointers: PMW – J. Benitez 2, R. Benitez 1; PV – Chieffo 2, Cisluycis 1.