POTTSVILLE – Marian executed its defensive game plan to perfection.
But Tri-Valley had the perfect back-up plan.
With the Fillies keeping the high-scoring duo of Julie Weber and Tara Nahodil under wraps, the Bulldogs turned to Taylor Troutman for some offense.
Troutman didn't let them down.
Troutman scored nearly half her team's points on Saturday afternoon as Tri-Valley defended its District 11 Class A title with a 32-27 victory over Marian.
"We learned a lot playing them earlier this year [a 44-33 Marian victory]," said Tri-Valley coach Careen Caulfield. "We broke down the tape of that game and thought by watching what Marian did defensively that Taylor [Troutman] would be a key.
"We told her this week in practice that she had to be ready."
Troutman obviously was.
The Bulldog sophomore scored a game-high 14 points. Every one of those points was crucial since the Fillies held both Weber (four points) and Nahodil (seven points) well below their normal double digit season averages.
"For the most part, we did exactly what we wanted to do defensively," said Marian coach Paul Brutto. "I thought we did a great job on both Weber and Nahodil, but sometimes when you focus so much on stopping certain players it creates opportunities for other kids.
"Give Tri-Valley credit. They had kids step up offensively and fill the scoring void."
Thanks to three long Kaysi McLaughlin jumpers, two of them three-pointers, the Fillies led 13-11 at halftime.
Marian (20-4) maintained that lead through much of the third quarter until a driving layup by Weber – her only field goal of the game – put Tri-Valley ahead 18-17 with just over two minutes left in the period.
Although it took the Bulldogs most of the quarter to finally forge in front, their defense began to take control much earlier.
Tri-Valley forced 11 Marian turnovers in the second half, seven of them in the third quarter.
"In a game like this, where possessions are at a premium, that [the 11 turnovers] was probably close to half of our possessions," said Brutto. "So proportionately, compared to a game where there is more of a back and forth flow, that number stands out even more.
"We knew coming in that Tri-Valley was a hard-nosed defensive team. They forced us to play on the perimeter. us to play on the perimeter. We just weren't able to get the ball to the basket very often."
Caulfield was thrilled with her team's defensive effort.
"Marian runs a very intricate offense and runs a lot of different sets," she said. "We stressed to our kids that they had to be aware of their main scoring threats and had to do a lot of talking and communicating.
"To hold them to 27 points is one heck of a defensive effort."
The game was tied on three different occasions in the fourth quarter before Tri-Valley (22-5) took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Chelsea Stutzman with 4:52 remaining. The Bulldogs had just one field goal the rest of the way, and for the most part struggled from the free throw line, but they got to the stripe enough to pull away down the stretch.
Tri-Valley was ahead 31-25 when McLaughlin, who led Marian with 11 points, fouled out with 1:10 left.
A pair of missed Bulldog free throws and a Gillian Ferko basket with :59 left kept things interesting. Two more missed foul shots by Tri-Valley gave the Fillies a glimmer of hope, but a missed three-pointer in the final half minute eventually sealed the outcome.
"Getting into the bonus first is always one of our goals," said Caulfield. "We did that today and if we would have made a few more foul shots this could have been a little easier.
"We typically make a lot more of our foul shots, but we really struggled today (8-for-21). I don't know if it was nervousness or fatigue or what."
In the end, the Bulldogs' struggles from the line didn't matter thanks to their defense and a perfect back-up plan on offense.
"The score, the tempo, it was exactly what we wanted," said Brutto. "But Tri-Valley is a good team. They beat us at our game today."
Weber 1-2-8-4, Newswanger 0-0-0-0, Spickler 1-0-0-2, Troutman 6-2-3-14, Stutzman 1-3-6-5, Nahodil 3-1-4-7. TOTALS: 12-8-21-32.
Green 1-2-4-4, Faust 0-0-0-0, McLaughlin 4-0-0-11, Gutsie 0-0-0-0, Markiewicz 0-0-0-0, Shober 0-0-0-0, Ferko 3-0-1-6, Tristani 2-1-2-6. TOTALS: 10-3-7-27.
Tri-Valley 7 4 9 12 - 32
Marian 7 6 4 10 - 27
Three-pointers: M – McLaughlin 3, Tristani 1.