JIM THORPE – When Marian won its last District 11 title in 1999, Mick Stefanek was the team's assistant coach
Last night, Stefanek celebrated another District championship, this time as a head coach.
With a 56-39 victory over Pius X, Marian claimed the District 11 Class A Championship, its first since the 1999 season and its third in school history.
The win advances Marian (22-5) into next week's State Tournament where they will meet the loser of this afternoon's District 4 Championship Game between Millville and Mansfield. That game will take place on Friday night at a site (in District 11) and time to be determined.
For Stefanek, who is in his 11th year, and is the school's all-time winningest boys basketball coach the wait (for his first District Championship) is finally over.
"What a long strange trip it's been," stated Stefanek. "It's been a while and things certainly didn't always go as planned, but I've been fortunate to work with some outstanding players and a great support system here at Marian."
"Last year, we let a District Championship slip through our fingers (in a loss to Williams Valley) and I think that just provided more motivation for myself and this group of seniors. They were really determined to go out and get this done tonight and I'm just so happy for them and everyone associated with Marian basketball."
Marian, which beat Pius (21-4) twice during the regular season, seemed a little sluggish out of the gates.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Zach Williams and Scott Douglas gave the Royals a 10-5 lead with 3:58 remaining in the first quarter.
However, a quick timeout by Stefanek put the Colts back on track.
Over the course of the next nine minutes (9:24), Marian held Pius X scoreless (0-for-10 from the floor), while going on a 14-0 run that gave them a 21-10 lead midway through the second quarter, which included 14 straight points from senior Matt Yaich.
"We didn't play well in the beginning of the game. We were slow with the ball and slow without the ball," added Stefanek. "We addressed some of those concerns during the timeout and we came out and played a real nice second quarter in order to gain momentum going into halftime."
Marian forced Pius X into nine second quarter turnovers and held the Royals to 1-for-7 shooting in the frame as they took a 23-14 lead into the break.
"Defensively, I thought we did a pretty darn good job," noted Stefanek. "Pius averages about 60 points a game, so to hold them to 14 first-half points was a huge testament to the way our kids played tonight."
Marian, who prides itself on defense, entered the contest allowing a TIMES NEWS-best 41.04 points per game.
The Colts started the third quarter scoring the first six points before the Royals went on a 7-0 run to close the deficit to 29-21. However, a Tommy Gottstein three-pointer (his second of the quarter) at the 2:19 mark put Marian back up by double-digits (32-21).
Yaich poured in nine more points the rest of the way and ended up with a season-high 28 points on the night (on 12-of-18 shooting), in addition to 10 rebounds. Yaich's previous season best was 23 points.
"Matt's a player and he does so many good things on the court. When he gets the ball in the mid to high-post, he's tough to stop," lauded Stefanek. "He was outstanding tonight and I couldn't be anymore happy for Matt and this entire senior class."
Dwayne McGee led Pius X with 11 points, while 6-7 center David Hills added seven points to go along with 19 rebounds.
The Royals shot 13-for-44 from the floor, while Marian cashed in on 22 of its 50 shots. The Colts also outrebounded Pius X 37-30, while forcing the Royals into 22 turnovers (as opposed to Marian's 17). With 56 points scored, the Colts are now 15-0 on the season when they score 50 points or more in a game.
"I can't emphasize enough how determined this senior group was to get out of here with a win and a District Championship," concluded Stefanek.
"These kids are going to take something from tonight that they're going to have for the rest of their lives...a gold medal and some great memories."
Douglas 2-0-0-6, McGee 5-1-4-11, Muller 0-0-0-0, Hills 3-1-2-7, Williams 2-0-2-5, Maletz 0-8-8-8, Cooper 1-0-0-2, Camiletti 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-10-16-39.
Barletta 2-5-9-9, O'Donnell 0-0-0-0, Stawick 0-0-0-0, Nesgoda 0-0-0-0, Decker 2-0-0-4, Gimbi 1-0-0-2, Gottstein 3-0-0-8, Yaich 12-2-4-28, Sherkness 0-1-3-1, Fital 2-0-1-4. TOTALS: 22-8-17-56.
Pius X 10 4 11 14 - 39
Marian 7 16 14 19 - 56
Three-Pointers: Pius X - Douglas 2, Williams 1; Marian - Gottstein 2, Yaich 2.