The Pleasant Valley girls' basketball team knew what was on the line when it took the floor against East Stroudsburg South Tuesday night.
A win would have given the Lady Bears six victories in the Mountain Valley Conference, thus qualifying them for the District 11 playoffs. Knowing that, they went out and got the job done.
Behind a strong effort from senior Kelecia Harris, and perhaps its best shooting night of the season, Pleasant Valley topped East Stroudsburg South 54-50 in MVC play. The Bears move to 10-6 (6-2) and can now focus on getting things right before heading into the post-season.
"I think our defense was a little bit more aggressive in the first half," said Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky. "We were able to get some steals and rebounds and get out on a break. On top of that we made some high percentage shots.
"In the second half, (South) did a good job of containing us and we couldn't really bust down the floor. Fortunately, we hit some free throws – which we haven't been able to do all year – so it's a good thing that we are finally making them now."
Pleasant Valley used its quickness to open a 21-14 lead at the end of one. Amber Chieffo knocked down two triples, while Harris added seven of her game-high 21 points. All five starters scored for the Bears as the Cavs were forced to keep up.
South clawed back in the second behind forward Hannah Swinton. Swinton went for eight in the frame and brought the Cavs to within three (31-28) at the break. At the same time, the Bears' offensive push slowed slightly. Harris was the only local to score more than two points (four) in the quarter.
The Cavs continued to fight in the third. This time it was guard Emma Menio dropping seven to help South tie the game at 42.
Then, Pleasant Valley's adjustments finally paid off in the fourth as it held the Cavs to just one field goal for the entire quarter. Meanwhile, the Bears went 8-of-14 from the free throw line. Arden Cisluycis sank 3-of-4 in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
Harris was the biggest factor in Pleasant Valley winning the game. While the Bears' center led the team with 21 points, she also grabbed 18 rebounds and made a handful of steals on the defensive end.
"Kelly is not one to speak and not very vocal, but she shows her leadership on the floor," said Gauronsky. "If there is a young kid out there who wants to see how to play every minute aggressively then they should probably come and watch her. She really gives everything she has every single second of the game."
Gauronsky noted that the game will go a long way for her team's confidence since they were able to reverse their fortunes from their first meeting with East Stroudsburg South. According to the third-year head coach, her Bears were just a bunch of young kids a month or so ago. Now, they are a winning basketball team.
"I think we are getting a little more confident," said Gauronsky. "At the beginning of the year we were a bunch of sophomores who really didn't have a lot of experience. Last time we were up at South, we were ahead by a couple at halftime and ending up losing.
"This time we were able to hold on to the lead. That says something about the girls and how hard they are working together as a group."
EAST STROUDSBURG SOUTH
Lippold 1-1-2-3, L. Steakin 4-4-5-14, T. Steakin 3-0-0-8, Menio 4-2-4-10, Eck 1-0-2-2, Swinton 6-1-2-13. TOTALS: 19-8-15-50.
Chieffo 2-0-1-6, Harris 8-5-9-21, Cusluycis 0-5-8-5, Dekmar 3-0-0-6, Dorney 4-2-4-10, Craig 0-2-4-2, Meckes 1-0-0-2, Miller 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 19-14-26-54.
ES South 14 14 14 8 - 50
Pleasant Vy 21 10 11 12 - 54
Three-Pointers: ESS - L. Steakin 2, T. Steakin 2; PV - Chieffo 2.