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Spartans' defense smothers Bulldogs

Spartans' defense smothers Bulldogs

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During her tenure as the Pleasant Valley High School girls' basketball coach, Jennifer Goetz has had athletic and skilled teams. She maybe has never had a team with as much length across the board.

That length in the Spartans’ 2-3 zone defense has wreaked havoc on opponents all winter.

Class 5A 11th-ranked Pleasant Valley smothered city-rival Bettendorf on Jan. 7, cruising to a 59-26 victory at PV High School to remain atop the Mississippi Athletic Conference standings.

“It started with ball pressure,” freshman guard Reagan Pagniano said. “We suffocated them, and we weren’t going to stop. It was pedal to the metal.”

PV recorded 18 steals as Bettendorf turned the ball over 29 times. The Bulldogs were a meager 8-of-34 from the field and did not muster a basket for the first 10-plus minutes of the third quarter.

“I think our defense can be something like we’ve never seen,” said Goetz, whose team has held four of its last five opponents below 30 points. “We’ve had athletic teams, but when you add length to all of that, that’s a whole another dimension.”

The Spartans had players listed at 6-foot-1, 6-1, 5-11, 5-8 and 5-8 on the court together during stretches of the game. The Bulldogs, with minimal height on the perimeter, struggled to get into any offense.

Bettendorf committed 10 turnovers in the opening quarter as it dug itself a 32-14 halftime deficit.

“It was the first time for some of our kids seeing this length and athleticism against a true PV varsity zone defense,” Bulldogs coach Brian Tritt said. “We weren’t getting the ball to where we needed to get good shots.

“It was not the way we wanted to play tonight, but we’ve got to flush this because we’ve got a game tomorrow. The good thing is, we’ve got this on film and we can go back to work on it.”

Halle Vice had a game-high 18 points, including a stretch in the first quarter where she went on a personal 10-0 run, to stake PV to a double-digit advantage.

Others emerged after that.

Jessie Clemons had 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Pagniano collected 13 points, four assists and three steals.

“Defensively, I thought we were in control and they had to react to us,” Goetz said. “I was super proud of our defensive effort tonight.”

Goetz said it might have been Pagniano’s best game in a PV uniform.

The freshman, coming off surgery for a meniscus injury last year, gave the Spartans a spark on both ends of the floor.

“I just try and bring energy,” Pagniano said. “If someone is down, I try and pick them up.”

Pagniano's role has continued to evolve as the season progresses.

“You’re starting to see Reagan getting more confident and the knee is getting stronger than what it even was in November,” Goetz said. “She brings a little swagger to us, just a gamer.

“I’m hard on her defensively, but I thought defensively tonight she made a difference.”

It was the seventh straight win for the Spartans heading into Saturday’s IHMVCU Shootout tilt against Rock Island at 5:45 p.m. inside Augustana College’s Carver Center.

“We weren’t going to let up during the second half,” Pagniano said. “We worked on getting that first punch tonight. We did a really good job of that.”

Lillie Petersen led the Bulldogs with 13 points and seven rebounds.


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Sports Editor

Sports editor, with my emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 21 years, the last nine at the Q-C Times.

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