Over the course of the regular season, the Marian girls' basketball team has often lived by the strength of its defense.
The Fillies' have a solid trio of scorers in seniors Kaysi McLaughlin, Kelly Shober and Danielle Tristani who have complimented that solid defensive effort with their ability to score.
On Saturday, Marian (21-6 overall) will run into another program that has often dwelled off the success of its own defense in the Quarterfinals of the PIAA State Class A playoffs this afternoon. The Fillies will tip-off at 1 p.m. against Old Forge (19-6), the No. 1 seed out of District 2, at Hazleton Area High School.
"I think it's going to be a defensive battle," Marian head coach Paul Brutto said. "They're a good defensive team. Up until their game Wednesday night, I think they held their last bunch of opponents under 30 points if I read right. They play tough match-up zone."
Prior to its 66-43 win over Lebanon Catholic, Old Forge had held their last five opponents under 30 points. To make things even more interesting, the Blue Devils have held opponents under 30 points in 15 of their 19 wins on the season. On top of that, in only two of their victories have they allowed more than 40 points.
The Fillies have been able to match that, however. They have held opponents under 40 points in 18 of their 21 victories and have held opponents to under 30 in 11 of those wins.
Brutto feels his Fillies will be able to withstand the brunt of the Blue Devils' match-up zone, but feels it may be theie toughest challenge yet.
"Fortunately, we faced a fair share of zones here, but not really as good as Old Forge's," Brutto said. "The key will be poise, patience, attacking it by making some smart cuts and trying to beat it down the court once in awhile instead of having to play five-on-five.
"Instead, we can get some transition deals in there that we can score before they even get set."
In fact, he has informed his team on what may be the difference against a stingy Blue Devils' defense, which has allowed an average of 31.28 points per game compared to scoring 43 on offense.
"I kind of told our kids the team that outrebounds and scores more from the foul line will have a big edge in this game," Brutto said. "We need to get to the foul line more than they do and make them and we need to outrebound them, especially getting some second chance points."
While the Fillies' enter this game having allowed an average of 35.04 points per game, while scoring a better average of 49.44 points per game, there is one Blue Devil that the Fillies' need to keep an eye on.
The Blue Devils are led by Lauren Cary, who averages 11.4 points a game and has scored 285 points this season.
While Marian has McLaughlin (11.3 ppg), Shober (10.6) and Tristani (10.0) to rely on for offense, the next best for the Blue Devils are sophomore guard Rhyan Barnic (7.3 ppg) and senior center Morgan Malia (5.8). Cary, a sophomore forward went off against Lebanon Catholic for a career-best 40 points.
"To her credit, she went strong to the basket and Lebanon Catholic didn't do a good job keeping her on the perimeter," Brutto said. "So we're going to throw a few girls at her. Probably start McLaughlin on her and then just throw one or two kids at her just to try and keep a fresh defender on her. I think we just have to help each other. You just can't leave any one of those defenders on her one-on-one because she's too good to do that.
"She likes to catch the ball at the foul line and then go from there as she did a great job of that against Lebanon Catholic. She also did a great job from the foul line (11-for-13) as she scored a bunch of her points on lay-ups and another bunch on foul shots. She only maybe hit two jump shots. So, we're going to try and keep her in front of us the best we can. She's supposed to be super quick, so that's one of those sounds easy, sounds like a good idea, but it's going to be a much tougher deal in real time Saturday."
While there's a possibility of a rematch with Tri-Valley in the distance - the very next round if it pans out that way, but Brutto wants his Fillies to remain focused on more important things for now.
"We're just kind of looking at Old Forge now and looking to take care of that," Brutto said. "Like I said numerous times, we're just trying to get them to not only look forward to Saturday, but to just savor and enjoy the season they have had to this point. Sometimes you're looking at the next game and you just don't enjoy what you have done. We're trying to do both, but I really want them to understand where they're at and what they have accomplished and not just look forward."