On the opening night of the season, the Jim Thorpe boys' basketball team proved it can beat Marian.
Wednesday night, with the Schuylkill League playoffs lurking around the corner, the Olympians wanted to get a point across with a much more meaningful 57-45 non-league victory against the Colts.
"Knowing there's a chance that we can play them in the first round of the league playoffs, we wanted to give them something to think about," Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll said.
That matchup could happen.
The Colts have already clinched a berth by winning the Division III title while the Olympians hold a half-game lead over Pottsville in Division I.
Jim Thorpe needed less than two minutes to take control of what had been a close game.
After Matt Yaich, Tommy Gottstein and Mark Stawick keyed a Colts' 7-0 run to tie the game up (29-29) with 2:32 left in the third quarter, Olympian junior guard Dean DiBonifazio gave his team a spark.
DiBonifazio hit two three-pointers and two free throws in a 12-point Jim Thorpe run.
"We know that we may see them in the Schuylkill League playoffs," said DiBonifazio, who hit double figures for only the third time this season with 13 points. "We just wanted this as a confidence booster. So, we knew we needed to come out after half looking to extend the lead and put them away."
Lux, who finished with a dozen points, capped that outburst with a three-pointer with 23-seconds left that made it 41-29. Stawick put an end to the spurt by hitting two free throws seven seconds later.
The damage was done, however, as the Olympians took a 43-31 lead entering the fourth after Corey Cinicola converted on two of his 11 points on the night with .8-seconds left in the third.
"I take full responsibility for that lapse," Marian coach Mick Stefanek said. "Our kids came back with a run to tie it up and then they went on that run. I talked to the kids after the game and I told them my thoughts on it. But, that was the game right there. That was a crucial stretch right there with their 12-0 run.
"Our kids play hard though. I'm proud of our effort, but I'm not proud of my coaching performance tonight."
In the fourth, Carroll decided to slow things down a bit.
In doing so, the Colts were forced to foul the Olympians if they wanted any chance of getting a come-from-behind win. It didn't happen, as the Olympians were 12-for-18 from the foul line.
"I thought with our athletic ability we could spread the court on them," said Carroll about the game plan in the fourth. "We played with a lot of confidence that we can spread the court and open up the lanes because (Drew) Sherkness is such a force in the middle. So, if we can spread him out, we could get some nice looks."
The Olympians' Rashid Epps finished with a double-double with 14 rebounds and 14 points, along with four blocks, while the Colts' Matt Yaich and Chris Barletta finished with 12 and 10 respectively.
"It's not the end of the world and it's not the end to our season," Stefanek said. "Our goals are still in reach. This game did not affect our goals in any way.
It might have been nice to win this to help with a better position in districts, but what we have as goals this year are still out there."
DiBonifazio 2-7-8-13, Mickens 0-1-2-1, Richardson 1-2-4-4, Lux 4-1-2-12, Epps 6-2-5-14, Cinicola 4-3-4-11, Johnson 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 18-16-25-57.
Barletta 4-0-0-10, Stawick 1-2-2-4, Gimbi 2-0-0-4, Gottstein 2-1-2-6, Lack 0-0-0-0, Yaich 5-1-2-12, Sherkness 4-1-4-9. TOTALS: 18-5-10-45.
Jim Thorpe 11 9 23 14 – 57
Marian 12 7 12 14 – 45
Three-pointers: JT - Lux 3, DiBonifazio 2; Marian – Barletta 2, Gottstein 1, Yaich 1.