Mekeel Christian Academy girls’ basketball coach Tahara Pleasure knew she had to make a choice before Tuesday’s game against Berne-Knox-Westerlo.
“They’ve got two tremendous players,” said Pleasure. “You have to pick which one you want to concentrate on.”
As it turned out, both Liz Harvey and Mary Salo had strong games, helping the Lady Bulldogs to a 56-41 victory that kept them unbeaten in seven Western Athletic Conference South Division games and 11-1 overall.
“The first time we played them, we held Salo to one point, but Harvey got 35,” said Pleasure. “This time, we wanted to limit Harvey’s shots, especially her threes. We did hold her down a little, but Salo had a big game.
“It’s tough. You just have to decided which one you want to concentrate on, and hope it works.”
“It’s a nice luxury to have,” said BKW coach Tom Galvin, who has the area’s leading scorer in Harvey and a strong inside presence in the 6-foot-2 Salo. “It makes it difficult for teams to decide what to do against us.
“And the other girls all contribute. We’ve got players who can defend, players who can handle the ball, players who can rebound.”
Salo scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the first eight minutes, converting entry passes into baskets and following up Bulldogs’ misses with rebound scores. She scored her team’s final seven points in the first period, finishing with a three-pointer that put BKW up, 21-5.
“It’s a good situation,” said Salo of the inside-outside combination of her and Harvey. “If the other team is trying to stop me, Liz, or one of the other girls will get their shots.”
“Mary’s my insurance policy,” said Harvey, who scored seven points in the final quarter to finish with 15, almost 10 off her league average and eight under the 23.2 she was averaging through her first 11 games. “If the defense is worried about me, we can get inside to her. Or somebody else will score. Tonight, I think almost everybody scored.”
Six of the eight BKW players did score, helping hold off the Lady Lions, who closed to within 29-22 in the second quarter.
That was as close as Mekeel would come, despite the efforts of sophomores Macie Holmes (12 points) and Nicole Pigliavento (16), who kept driving to the basket.
Holmes also had a handful of steals and was the Lady Lions’ primary ball handler. Pigliavento’s main task was to keep Harvey in check, fighting through picks and chasing down BKW’s career scoring leader as Mekeel employed a box-and-one.
“Macie played well,” said Pleasure. “She’s only going to get better. Nicole played a great game. With the energy she expended on defense, we didn’t know how much she’d help on offense.”
Harvey, who broke Sarah Domermuth’s school record earlier this month, has learned to let the game come to her.
“I’ve seen so many box-and-ones and triangle-and-twos that I’ve learned how to deal with it,” she said. “I can’t start forcing things.
“The main thing is that we win. I’d love to get to Hudson Valley and play in the finals. But, we’ve just got to keep focusing on each game.”
“The other day, one of them asked me when the WAC Cup [the league championship game] is,” said Galvin. “I told them that wasn’t a concern. We haven’t won anything yet.
“Now, we’re three games up with three to play. Hopefully, we win our division, then we can start focusing on sectionals.”
Mekeel Christian, with just two seniors on the eight-player varsity roster, had won three of four league games — the one setback a two-point loss at Schoharie — and five of six.
“They’ve worked hard, and you can see the improvement,” said Pleasure. “They came back and played well after that first quarter. It’s little steps. They’ll get there.”
Harvey 6-3-15, M.Salo 8-0-17, Abbott 1-1-3, Cunningham 3-1-7, K. Salo 2-0-4, McCormick 3-3-10. Totals: 23-8-56.
MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
L. Holmes 1-1-4, Taplin 1-3-5, McCarty 1-0-2, M.Holmes 2-8-12, Pigliavento 7-2-16, Rychick 1-0-2. 13-15-41.
BKW 21 11 14 10 — 56
MCA 5 18 10 8 — 41
Three-point goals: M.Salo, McCormick.