By STEFAN GESTWICKI
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
A win is a win - even if it's not pretty.
OBSERVER?Photo by Stefan Gestwicki
Pine Valley’s Aaren?Waterman, right, shoots over Dunkirk’s Lacey Clark during Thursday’s non-league girls basketball game.
Dunkirk coach Sarah Bogardus wasn't exactly glowing after her Lady Marauders (5-2, 3-0) downed Pine Valley, 52-49, in a non-league basketball game, Thursday at Dunkirk High School.
"I'm very happy with the way we played in the first half," Bogardus commented. "We let our guard down a little bit in the second half. We let a very disciplined, hard-working Pine Valley team back into it."
The Lady Panthers (3-3, 1-0) shook off a 14-point halftime deficit and actually led late in the fourth quarter, but couldn't quite hang on in a wild final stanza.
"That's what we wanted," Pine Valley coach Tim Nobles said of the nailbiter. "That's why we wanted to play Dunkirk. We knew they were going to be tough. That's what we need to get better. We put together two very good quarters. Unfortunately it takes three or four to be successful."
Dunkirk's defense was suffocating in the first half, as it held Pine Valley to just six points in each of the first two quarters. The offense wasn't exactly hot in the first quarter with just nine points, but started to catch fire in the second quarter.
Selena Ruiz, in just her second start of the season, stole the opening possession of the quarter and took it the length of the court for an easy layup. She finished with eight points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Jessica Gifford provided another Dunkirk highlight when she drilled the Lady Marauder's only 3-pointer of the game when she found herself wide open at the top of the key. The trey put Dunkirk up 18-8 and it appeared as if the rout was on.
The Lady Panthers had other ideas. Trailing 26-12 to start the third, Pine Valley hitched its wagon to the very capable Kayla Mansfield, who scored as many points (eight) in the quarter as Dunkirk did as a team.
"I'm very pleased with the second-half effort," Nobles added. "We tightened up our defense. I thought we competed and that's what I've been asking of this team."
"It was just our intensity level," Bogardus explained. "We got out to a decent lead and then came out flat. We were playing content. The girls have to realize that they should always be hungry to capitalize and further increase a lead."
After Pine Valley cut the lead to 34-27 at the end of the third, the fourth quarter provided about as entertaining an eight minutes as you'll find in high school basketball.
Mansfield scored four consecutive points to cut the Dunkirk lead to two with about five minutes remaining. Mansfield finished with a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds.
Every time the Lady Panthers scored, Dunkirk's Lacey Clark was there to answer. The powerful forward scored 13 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter. She dominated the boards with 17 rebounds, many on the offensive end, and added three steals and a pair of assists as well.
"Anytime we need Lacey, she steps up huge for us," Bogardus said of Clark. "She's the reason why we stayed in the game. She played great defense and she played strong on the boards. She also played very smart on offense and took it hard to the basket."
Kate Hoth gave the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game, 42-40, with 2:45 remaining when she buried a trey in front of the Pine Valley bench.
Again, Clark answered right back. Before the Pine Valley bench even stopped cheering Hoth's heroics, Clark drew a foul, made the shot and completed the three-point play to put Dunkirk back out in front.
With just more than two minutes remaining, Joyce Bomasuto hit a jumper for her first points of the game. It gave Dunkirk a lead it would not relinquish. Until that point, only four Lady Marauders - Clark, Ruiz, Gifford and Khee Nance - had found the scorecard.
"The last three minutes, I was very pleased with," Bogardus said. "They dug deep and gutted it out. They got it into the post and ran the floor. Anytime we can close out a close game, it's huge for us because we learn so much from it."
Pine Valley had one last chance to tie the game when it got the ball back with six seconds on the clock. The ball found itself into the hands of an open Kaleigh Brunswick, but her shot caromed off the rim as Dunkirk celebrated on its home court.
"Tim Nobles is a great coach and has been for years," Bogardus said of her coaching counterpart. "He has a legacy at Pine Valley. He drew up a very good play. They got a very good shot off."
Both teams are off until Friday, Jan. 4. Pine Valley will be home to Panama while Dunkirk travels to take on Falconer.