PLATTSBURGH — The Moriah Vikings and the Elizabethtown-Lewis Lions will meet tonight for the first time this season, and the winner will be crowned Section VII Class D girls’ basketball champion.
The Lions have had a fantastic season as they are 18-1, with their only loss coming against Class B’s Saranac.
Elizabethtown-Lewis is led by the five veteran starters, four of whom have started for head coach Don Ratliff for four consecutive seasons. This season, Ratliff was fortunate enough to be able to rest his seasoned starters in a few games, as he received very good production from his bench.
“Our six, seven, eight, nine girls are good players; they deserve playing time,” Ratliff said. “We’ve had our share of injuries this year, but we survived that stretch because of our bench.”
The Lions love to create turnovers in order to run the floor. They are known for their aggressive man-to-man defense and full-court pressure.
“We’re going to work on beating their press,” Moriah coach Steve Pelkey said. “I know they enjoy pressing and getting teams to turn over the ball. We just need to slow things down and keep it a low-scoring game.”
Ratliff credited not only his team’s defense, but also its improvement in rebounding, which is the reason why it has been able to control the tempo of games and get points on the board.
“We have gotten better looks and more opportunities to score off of rebounds,” Ratliff said. “Our offensive rebounds have gone up in the second half of the year because we have a good idea when we have to shoot.”
So far this season, Ratliff has gotten the most point production from junior Lily Whalen and senior Shonna Brooks, who are averaging 14.6 and 12.4 points per game, respectively.
But Ratliff believes good defense against Moriah will mean more offensive buckets for the Lions.
“We’re looking to shorten up their possessions in our defensive end,” he said. “We want to control the tempo of the game and get out and run.”
As for the Vikings (11-9), they do not have one star player but instead will look to get solid production from everyone who is out on the floor.
“The one thing about Moriah is that they all contribute,” Ratliff said. “It is going to be hard to contain everybody; we’ve got to make sure to get back and close out.”
Pelkey added nine new faces on his roster this season and only got back seniors Lauren Pelkey and Val Wykes from last year’s squad.
“We called up four of our girls last year for sectionals; at least they had an opportunity to see what it was like,” Pelkey said. “I’m hoping they won’t be too overwhelmed by it, but we’ll see.”
Moriah’s leading scorers are sophomore Madison Stahl, who averages just over 12 points per game, and junior Taylor Sprague, who averages nearly eight.
The Vikings had an up-and-down year, going 1-3 in their first four games before going 6-2 in their next eight. They lost four consecutive games in the middle of the schedule before finally getting hot at the end and winning their last four games by a combined 91 points.
Pelkey said he feels good heading into the game against the Lions but knows it won’t be easy.
“I’m expecting them to play their best ball and for us to play our best ball,” Pelkey said. “I think we have a great opportunity in front of us, and that is all you can ask for is an opportunity to play.”
As for Elizabethtown-Lewis, Coach Ratliff called it a “redemption” game for most of his girls, as his team is one year removed from a heartbreaking end to their playoff run last season.
“I think they are confident and excited,” Ratliff said. “I think in their minds it’s their last chance. They want to go out and play hard.”
GP FG FT P AVG
Stahl 20 94 50 242 12.1
Sprague 20 63 28 154 7.7
L. Pelkey 20 41 14 104 5.5
Cross 19 34 11 87 4.6
Slattery 17 31 14 76 4.5
Cross 19 8
L. Pelkey 20 8
C. Pelkey 20 5
Stahl 20 4
Wykes 20 1
GP FG FT P AVG
Whalen 19 109 41 278 14.6
Brooks 18 90 40 224 12.4
Ashline 18 66 15 162 9.0
J. Barnes 19 59 15 135 7.1
Cassavaugh 18 36 2 75 4.2
Whalen 19 19
Ashline 18 15
Brooks 18 4
J. Barnes 19 2
Cassavaugh 18 1