The booming pre-game recording of "Are You Ready For This" had the Northern Lehigh gymnasium rocking prior to tip off.
The Marian basketball team kept it that way the entire first half.
The Colts jumped out to an early double-digit lead, stretched the margin to 20 points by halftime, and cruised to a 59-36 victory over Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg in a District 11 Class A semifinal game on Tuesday night.
The victory sends Marian into the District 11 title game against Pius X on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Jim Thorpe.
The Colts' 6-6 senior center Drew Sherkness said his team's pre-game focus was on being aggressive right from the opening tip.
"We're a senior-oriented team that's been here before," said Sherkness. "We've played in a lot of playoff games the last two seasons so we knew what to expect.
"We wanted to be aggressive on both ends of the court and really try to take it to Notre Dame early in the game."
Marian did exactly that, shooting 8-for-13 from the floor in the opening quarter and building a 19-4 lead.
Notre Dame coach Bob Mullen did everything in his power to slow down the Colts during the first quarter. Mullen used four different defenses, called a pair of time outs, and made several substitutions, but nothing seemed to work.
"Their quick start really hurt us," said Mullen. "Give Marian credit. We tried everything to slow them down.
"We played man-to-man defense, we played a 1-3-1, we tried a triangle-and-two, and we even threw in a little matchup zone for awhile. But they're a good team and nothing we did in the first half worked very well."
With the game still close in the opening minutes, Marian got a pair of three-pointers from Tommy Gottstein to increase its lead to 11-4. Gottstein's second bomb started an 11-0 run to close the quarter that also included a pair of layups from Sherkness.
"We knew they had lots of weapons," said Mullen. "[Matt] Yaich is a great scorer, [Chris] Barletta can control the entire game from his point guard spot, and Sherkness is a huge force in the lane.
"But I thought a huge key to their start was No. 24 (Gottstein) hitting those three-pointers. I think it allowed them to relax and settle into a comfort zone very early."
The Colts stretched their lead to 30-10 at halftime as Yaich scored seven points in the second quarter.
"I wanted to get after them right out of the gates," said Marian coach Mick Stefanek. "We wanted to be aggressive on offense and defense and we did that.
"We took the ball to the basket early and got them in a little foul trouble and we also did a great job of defending [Steve] Lepre and [Tim] Mullen. They came into the game averaging 35 points a game between them and I think we held them to four points combined in the first half."
With Cody Decker drawing the assignment of guarding Lepre, Yaich watching the 6-7 Mullen, and Sherkness playing a roving eraser on the back line, the Spartans shot just 4-for-26 from the floor in the first half.
Sherkness finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, and an impressive rim-rattling slam. But his biggest contribution came on the defensive end where he blocked eight shots and altered about a half dozen more. He now has 123 blocks for the season.
"Last year I committed a lot of fouls trying to block shots," said Sherkness. "This year, I worked with [assistant] coach [Scott] Murphy on angles and timing of my blocks and it has really helped."
Notre Dame (14-9) frantically tried to claw back into the game in the second half, but Marian's lead never dipped below 14 points.
Yaich finished with game-high totals of 17 points and 12 rebounds for Marian (21-5), which will be making its second straight appearance in the District 11 title game.
"It's a great credit to our kids to be back in the district finals," said Stefanek. "I was really happy with our performance. Notre Dame is a nice team and to be able to take it to them like we did early and build that kind of a lead says a lot about our focus right now."
NOTRE DAME ES
Lepre 3-2-4-9, Lewis 2-3-4-8, Mullen 6-1-1-13, Carney 0-0-1-0, Long 1-0-0-2, Aldaron 2-0-0-4, Sibilia 0-0-0-0, O'Donnell 0-0-0-0, Karolefski 0-0-0-0, Oladugbewo 0-0-0-0, Luzzi 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-6-10-36.
Barletta 4-3-7-11, O'Donnell 1-0-0-3, Stawick 0-0-0-0, Nesgoda 0-0-0-0, Pillia 0-0-0-0, Decker 1-2-4-4, Gimbi 2-0-0-4, Gottstein 3-1-2-9, Matt Yaich 6-5-6-17, Sherkness 4-1-6-9, Fital 1-0-0-2, Karnish 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 22-12-25-59.
No. Dame ES 4 6 15 11 - 36
Marian 19 11 12 17 - 59
Three-pointers: NDES – Lapre 1, Lewis 1. M - Gottstein 2, O'Donnell 1.