POTTSVILLE - The Schuylkill League semifinal match-up last night between Jim Thorpe and Marian showed that the game of basketball is most certainly a game of runs.
The Lady Olympians trailed the Fillies as much as 14 in third quarter, but stormed back to close within one late in the fourth.
That's as close as Jim Thorpe would get however, as Marian held on and pulled out a 38-36 victory to advance to the Schuylkill League Championship.
Marian's run carried on for three quarters, stifling the Olympians explosive transition attack. Earlier in the week, Marian coach Paul Brutto expressed his desire to keep Thorpe in the half-court and make them work offensively. His team didn't disappoint, especially Marian's Kelly Shober who set the tone with seven blocked shots in the first half.
"We wanted a game in the 30's," said Brutto. "We knew if we kept the game low-scoring that it meant we kept them from getting out in transition. Kaysi (McLaughlin) did a great job on (Celeste) Robinson in the half-court and holding her to the mid-teens is a good night defending her."
Robinson scored a game-high 16 points (second lowest scoring total of the year), but the Fillies held her in check for most of the night. The Schuylkill League scoring leader was frustrated at times and the Fillies pressure along with the intense Martz Hall atmosphere forced Robinson to miss some shots that she usually converts.
"Celeste definitely struggled a bit tonight," said Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac. " She missed two or three breakaway lay-ups and I don't think she's ever missed that many in her high school career. They did a good job on her and like any kid at her age frustration will set in when things aren't going their way."
The Fillies scoring attack on the other hand came from some unlikely places. Thorpe held Marian's three leading scorers in McLaughlin (12.57 ppg), Kelly Shober (10.60 ppg), and Danielle Tristani (9.35 ppg) to just 15 points combined. McLaughlin was held scoreless and Shober to just four points.
"Some girls that usually don't score a ton played big for us tonight," said Brutto. " Gabby Green hit some big shots, Sam Faust really worked hard on the boards, and Emily Sofranko made some big plays on offense and defense in the last minute. That's playoff basketball though, other kids have to step up and some things have to happen in your favor."
The Fillies had the game much in their favor till the fourth when the Olympians began their late run. Down 10 heading into the the final quarter Thorpe's full-court pressure started to take its affect. The Fillies did a good job of handling the Thorpe defense all night, but the Olympians were determined and close within three at the 5:16 mark. After a series of events that saw four jump balls, a scuffle under the JT basket, and an injury to Tristani, Jim Thorpe saw themselves down just one with 1:46 remaining.
The Olympians once again turned up the defensive pressure getting numerous chances to tie or take the lead, but they never could get the shot they wanted. Robinson (25.2 ppg) and Chelsea Smelas (11.7 ppg), which have been Thorpe's bread and butter all season long didn't take a shot in the final 1:10 of the game.
"We were just a play or bounce away from getting the bucket we needed," said Kovac. "We certainly didn't take the shots we wanted late in the fourth and we have to do a better job of making good decisions when the game is on the line like that. I'm proud of our girls though, they fought back in a tough atmosphere and that's a positive heading into districts."
Marian's Emily Sofranko's bucket off a backdoor lob pass from mid-court and steal on the following possession all but sealed the win for the Fillies.
"All of our girls stepped up tonight," said Brutto. "Our girls did a lot of things that won't show up in the box scores. Give all the credit to Jim Thorpe for coming back, but I'm more proud of our girls for hanging in there."
Danielle Tristani and Gabby Green scored 11 points each to lead the Fillies.
Marian will now face Tri-Valley in the Schuylkill League Championship game at 6 p.m. at Martz Hall in Pottsville on Friday night.
McLaughlin 0-0-2-0, Tristani 4-2-2-11, Shober 1-2-2-4, Faust 3-2-4-8, Green 3-2-6-11, Sofranko 2-0-0-4, Wilson 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-8-16-38.
McEmoyle 1-0-0-3, Batts 0-0-0-0, Lawrence 2-3-3-9, Robinson 7-1-2-16, Mosteller 0-0-0-0, Smelas 4-0-0-8. TOTALS: 14-4-5-36.
Marian 9 11 13 5 - 38
Jim Thorpe 7 6 10 13 - 36
Three-pointers: M - Green 3, Tristani 1; Lawrence 2, McEmoyle 1, Robinson 1.