Fighting for a spot in the District 11 Class A playoffs, Marian's magic number to qualify was two heading into its match-up with Mahanoy Area. In front of a packed house in Hometown, the Colts (10-9) have now reduced that number to one after they shocked the Bears on Monday night 42-39 for the Schuylkill League Division 3 win.
The win for the Colts couldn't have come at a better time. Sitting at 9-9 before their contest with Mahanoy (16-3), Marian had to win two out of its last four games all against opponents it previously lost to this season.
"This is obviously a nice win for us," said Marian coach John Patton. "We're missing two of our starters from the beginning of the year and it was important for us to extend our possessions to get quality shots. This sets up a big game against Jim Thorpe on Friday where we have to continue playing good basketball."
Marian did just that for the majority of the game mirroring the play of the always defensive minded and shot conscious Bears.
The Colts defense especially made a difference, holding Mahanoy to zero points in the second quarter a feat that few teams can claim against Mickey Holland's offensive attack.
"For us to get into post-season play it starts with our defense," said Patton. "We don't have the ability to outscore teams on the offensive end so we have to keep getting stops and then in turn play patiently on offense. We just did a great job of hedging on their ball screens and playing help "D" and they missed some shots they usually make."
The start of the fourth quarter was where business picked up for the Colts. Down 33-25, Marian went on a 8-0 run sparked by Ryan Karnish and Nick Kweder. Karnish's nifty scoop from the left block in transition tied things up at 30-30 at the 6:29 mark and they continued their run from there.
Mahanoy responded going back on top 37-35 with 3:24 remaining on a Jimmy Baker steal and layup. Karnish once again knotted things up after the Baker score with a tough turn-around fade-away in the middle of the lane.
That's the last time the game would be tied with Marian extending its to lead to 40-37 on clutch foul shooting in the last two minutes of the game. Mahanoy closed to within one at about the 1:15 mark, but couldn't get a bucket to overtake the Colts.
Like any team hindered by injuries the Colts have had unsung heroes all over the floor, and Monday night was no exception.
Maybe the most notable of the Marian "x-factors" is Damian Richards. Richards, who is built physically for the shooting forward spot has been asked to play a number of positions this season for Patton and has not disappointed.
"Damian Richards has done everything we've asked him to do this season and more," said Patton. "Tonight he was asked to play the point against one of the best defenses in the league and then also guard their big-man who is 6-foot-3. Nick (Kweder) and Zach (Motil) have also been doing great things for us. This was a definite team win, but guys have been stepping up and that's what we need."
Karnish shouldered the load for the Colts on offense scoring 16 points.
The back-court tandem of Neil Goodman and Mike Gaval led the Bears with 13 and 12 points respectively.
Goodman 5-0-0-13, Gaval 5-1-2-12, Cavenas 3-0-1-6, Baker 2-0-0-4, Kuzma 1-1-4-4, McGee 0-0-0-0, Van Horn 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-2-7-39.
Kweder 2-0-0-5, Karnish 6-2-2-16, Pilla 3-0-2-8, Motil 2-1-2-5, Julian 0-0-0-0, Richards 1-5-6-7, Swankoski 0-1-2-1, Weber 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-9-14-42.
Mahanoy 15 0 15 9 - 39
Marian 10 9 6 17 - 42
Three-pointers: Mah - Goodman 3, Gaval 1, Kuzma 1; Mar - Pilla 2, Karnish 2, Kweder 1.