SWIFTWATER - With 4:27 left in Friday night's Mountain Valley Conference championship, Pleasant Valley's Marques Brown made the first of two free throws but missed the second. The Bears were down by nine and the time and on the verge of seeing Pocono Mountain West pull away for an easy victory.
No one boxed Brown out, he got a rebound of his missed second free throw and put it back up to pull the Bears within seven and provide the spark to put his team back in it.
Pleasant Valley managed to cut it to two, but the Panthers managed to ride Eric Vick's free throw shooting to come away with a 50-45 triumph and the boys title.
"That was big," Pleasant Valley head coach Ken Piontkowski said about Brown's big play to spark the run. "They didn't quit, they didn't give up and Devon (Howard) hit a big three in the middle of that somewhere. There were so many key plays in there that I can't even remember the order in my head.
"I was proud that we didn't quit, obviously. They had us on the ropes for sure and at least we made them sweat it out a little bit there at the end. We just couldn't make the one or two extra plays that we needed."
Howard had 10 of his team high 18 points in the fourth quarter as he put the Bears on his back after Brown and Dan Hrbek fouled out down the stretch.
Vick had half of his game high 22 points in the final eight minutes making seven-of-nine from the charity stripe.
After Howard pulled the Bears within two on a driving layup with 1:36 remaining, Vick returned the favor with a driving layup of his one and Joe Wiggins hit one of two free throws with 43 seconds left to give West a five point advantage at 47-42.
Howard hit a jumper to cut the Panthers lead to three, before the Bears had to foul and Vick hit a free throw with 23.9 seconds remaining. Howard cut it to three again with a free throw of his own, but Vick made two more from the line with 12.5 seconds remaining to end it.
"Execution is one thing and breaks are another thing when it's close in the final two minutes," Piontkowski said. "You get a call one way and a call another way, when it's that close of a game, everything is razor thin."
The Panthers started out quick with a 6-0 run in the first quarter, but the
Bears made some adjustments and trailed by 12-7 entering the second quarter.
"We're primarily a man-to-man defensive team," said Piontkowski. "Usually when we play zone, we get a little back on our heels and I don't like the way we look. So we generally start man-to-man. West is a tough team to defend that way, but it's more about what we do and how it affects us and just gets us more aggressive and gets us into the game.
"After the first five minutes we settled into a 2-3 zone and the kids played it really well and it kind of bothered West. Then we got up in our 2-2-1 pressure and I think that bothered them a little bit and helped us get a little bit of the tempo going."
It did just that as Pleasant Valley ran off the first five points of the second quarter to take a 14-12 lead. Even though it was short lived, the Bears went into the locker room at the half trailing 21-20.
The Panthers scored the last six points of the third quarter to take a seven point lead into the final eight minutes and they spread the floor and it was too much for the Bears to overcome.
Brown backed up Howard in doubles with 10 for the Bears.
Both teams now head into the District 11 Class AAAA playoffs next week.
Brown 4-2-4-10, Howard 7-1-2-18, Hosier 1-0-2-2, Deegan 1-0-0-2, Sharpe 0-2-2-2, Hrbek 2-0-0-4, Jones 2-1-2-5, Pazienza 1-0-0-2, Robinson 0-0-0-0. TOTALS:18-6-12-45.
Dixon 2-3-4-7, Vick 6-10-14-22, Cooper 3-0-0-7, Mayo 0-0-0-0, Wiggins 1-1-2-3, Baptiste 0-2-2-2, Hardy 4-1-2-9. TOTALS: 16-17-24-50.
Pleasant Vy. 7 13 7 18 - 45
PM West 12 9 13 16 - 50
Three-pointers: PV - Howard 3; PMW - Cooper 1.