By Joe catullo jr.
The Pymatuning Valley Lakers opened the Division III sectionals against East Palestine on Saturday in a matchup between a team 17 games over .500 against a team 11 games below.
The Lakers won, 60-38, but they were lucky to escape the upset.
“It’s survive at this point of the year,” PV coach Jeff Compan said. “I thought we survived.”
The Lakers (20-2) began strong and led by a double-digit margin in the second quarter. Then the Bulldogs (5-17) began their spurt, ending the half down by four points.
East Palestine shot 58.8 percent with 10 assists in the first half and made all three of its 3-point attempts. The Bulldogs’ biggest problems were 19 turnovers and 10 fouls.
“They shot the ball extremely well in that first half and I think we just had some first-tournament jitters,” East Palestine coach Walt Herriott said. “We talked about at halftime going back to the basics, containing them. I thought we gave them too many open shots.”
The turnovers and fouls caught up to the undersized Bulldogs. They committed 10 more fouls and 19 more turnovers while shooting 27.3 percent from the field. They missed all four of their 3-point attempts in the second half.
The Lakers, on the other hand, bolted on a 19-4 scoring run from the beginning of the third quarter to the end.
“We thought we had a nice size advantage at our guard position,” Compan said. “We wanted to contain them and get our hands up to get the lob passes. I thought in the second half we did a good job of switching up our presses. We sped them up, which I think created more turnovers.”
The Bulldogs were without two starters. One was injured and the other was sick.
“We’ve been playing well the last half of the season,” Herriott said. “I think part of our problem early in the year was we were playing three freshmen and two seniors, and it just took them a while to mesh.”
The Lakers advance to challenge Springfield on Thursday.