PLYMOUTH - This is getting too familiar for Wyoming Valley West.
Spot a pretty talented divisional opponent a halftime lead, then watch the Spartans come surging back during the final two quarters.
The formula worked to perfection once again for the Spartans, who used a combined 23 second-half points from forwards Megan Kane and Cheyenne Reese to pull away from Pittston Area, 52-40 and stay hot on the heels of Crestwood in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division I at the Valley West gym Thursday.
“In the second half, we just picked it up,” Kane said, “because we knew it was a close game. We played together as a team. I think at halftime, we psyche ourselves up more, so we come out really strong.”
Using the inside strength of Reese and Kane, Valley West turned a four-point halftime deficit into a double-digit lead in the third quarter, and Pittston Area never quite recovered.
It marked the second straight game where the Spartans came out a bit sluggish - at the Valley West gym, no less - and rallied for victory. Thursday’s turn-around wasn’t quite as dramatic as Valley West recovering from a 26-14 halftime deficit to sting Hazleton Area, 45-42 on Monday.
But it did enough to keep the Spartans, now 5-1 in Division I play, chasing 6-0 Crestwood for the divisional lead.
“Every win in the division is a really big win,” Valley West coach Paul Appel said. “It is so deep, anyone in our division has a chance to win it.”
Pittston Area sensed that.
The Patriots, coming off a three-point loss to Crestwood, stormed out to a quick 10-4 lead behind six points from Liz Waleski and four from Eastin Ashby.
Pittston Area kept its advantage through halftime, as Allie Barber hit the first four of her 10 points to take the Patriots into the third quarter with a 20-16 lead.
“But you know it’s going to be a great game,” said Pittston Area coach Kathy Healey, whose team fell to 4-2 in the WVC Division I with its second consecutive loss this week. “Paul’s a great coach and Valley West is a great team. You know they’re going to come at you. So you never feel comfortable.”
When the second half began, the Spartans slipped into a comfort zone.
With 6-foot-2 center Olivia Hoffman held to two points by Pittston Area’s double-team in the first half, the Spartans’ stellar forwards began pounding the paint.
Reese, who finished with a game-high 17 points, slashed inside for six of those in the third quarter. Kane began following suit, and when she converted a three-point play two minutes into the second half, Valley West had its first lead, 21-20.
“It was pretty awesome,” Kane said.
It got even neater for Valley West when Kane’s drive to the bucket gave Valley West an 11-point lead with nine seconds to play in the third quarter, before Waleski’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer cut Pittston Area’s deficit to 35-27.
“Olivia (Hoffman) had six assists in the second half,” Appel said. “Pittston Area was doing the right thing, they were doubling her. And she made the right call. We played team basketball. In the first half, we didn’t have the intensity you need to have against a good team. And Pittston is a very, very good team.”
The Patriots just didn’t have enough to overcome a spirited Spartans’ effort that’s quickly giving Valley West the reputation of becoming a second-half team.
“I hope not,” Appel said. “I hope we can have a little bit more intensity through all four quarters.
“I hope we can start being a complete team.”
Wyoming Valley West 52, Pittston Area 40
PITTSTON AREA (40) — Allie Barber 4 2-2 10, Liz Waleski 6 0-0 14, Jackie Rabender 1 1-2 3, Ali Brady 1 0-0 2, Eastin Ashby 1 2-2 4, Marley O’Brien 1 0-0 2, Taryn Ashby 2 0-0 5. Totals 16 5-6 40.
WYOMING VALLEY WEST (52) — Tara Judge 0 0-1 0, Cassie Smicherko 1 2-4 4, Cheyenne Reese 7 3-3 17, Megan Kane 7 1-1 15, Olivia Hoffman 4 2-2 10, Savannah Piazza 3 0-0 6, Gabby Smicherko 0 0-0 0, Erin Gibbons 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 8-11 52.
Pittston Area`10`10`7`13` — `40
Valley West`9`7`19`17` — `52
Three-point goals — PA 3 (Waleski 2, T. Ashby); WVW 0