The Pleasant Valley girls' basketball team had been a collective 0-for-9 on free throws before Amber Chieffo stepped to the line with 8.6 seconds left.
With their ten-point fourth quarter lead over Pocono Mountain East having been shrunk to two, the Bears needed their senior to sink the two biggest free throws of the night. And she kindly obliged.
Chieffo nailed both free throws in the clutch and helped the Bears to a 36-32 Mountain Valley Conference victory over the Cardinals. The win helps to boost Pleasant Valley's confidence, as it has now won three in a row after dropping three consecutive games last week.
"As a senior, I needed to step up in that situation," said Chieffo, who finished with eight points. "It was huge because we were up by two with a couple of seconds left. They have some shooters on their team, so I figured if I make these - which I was going to - we would have a pretty good chance. That is the thought process that you have to have."
Pocono Mountain got out into transition early and helped itself to an 11-5 first quarter lead. Although they had two post players over 5-11 in Tristen Wicks and Neechelle Ingram, the Cardinals figured they would push the tempo in hopes of beating Pleasant Valley's 3-2 zone to the punch. It worked for the first eight minutes, but not so much for the next 16.
The Bears were able to slow down the Cardinals' rush in the second and made them operate in the half-court. With that, they also turned up their defensive pressure and stymied the opposition's offense. The Bears went on to create a handful of turnovers en route to outscoring East 24-8 over the middle two quarters.
"If we aren't shooting the ball well then we have to do other things well," said Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky. "We focused on defense. I thought our guards did a good job tonight of being aggressive up top and taking away passes and stealing the ball.
"I just told the girls that they have to be confident in themselves on offense and to keep shooting. The good thing was that our defense was really good, so if we could just get a couple of baskets then we were going to be alright."
Things began to slip in the fourth as Pocono Mountain clawed its way back. Amber Reisenwitz converted a free throw to draw the Cardinals to within two with two to go. Neither team would score until Chieffo was forced to step to the line with the game on the line. Fortunately for Gauronsky and her girls, the senior came through when she had to.
"It was a senior pulling us through," said Gauronsky. "I told her she was going to end up shooting the free throws. The ball was going to be in her hands and she will have to make them. And she did. That's a senior stepping up.
"I think this win will boost our confidence and give us some momentum. We won three in a row this week so we are a good team. If we can just find a way to make a couple more shots or do something a little bit better then we are going to be in the thick of it."
Ruggiero 2-1-3-6, Lalin 0-0-0-0, Parker 1-0-0-2, Roth 1-2-2-4, Reisenwitz 1-3-4-5, Wicks 4-1-2-9, Ingram 2-2-3-6. TOTALS: 11-9-14-32
Harris 2-0-2-4, Chieffo 2-2-4-8, Dorney 5-0-0-10, Dekmar 0-0-0-0, Meckes 3-0-1-6, Cisluycis 1-0-3-2, Miller 0-0-0-0, Craig 3-0-1-6. TOTALS: 16-2-11-36.
PM East 11 4 4 13 - 32
Pleasant Vy 5 10 14 7 - 36
Three-Pointers: PM - Ruggiero 1; PV - Chieffo 2.