HAZLETON – Kaysi McLaughlin and her Marian teammates had green and white carnations in their hands as they walked out of the locker room on Saturday.
The flowers were a St. Patrick's Day gift after the Fillies had defeated Old Forge, 44-39, in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class A State Tournament..
For McLaughlin, it was a good day to be Irish. But it was even a better day to be a Fillie.
"It was an incredible feeling coming off the court after we won," said McLaughlin. "When we got back to the locker room it was amazing. Everyone was screaming. Everyone was celebrating. I'm so happy right now."
McLaughlin had every right to be happy. Thanks in large part to her contributions at both ends of the court, the Fillies are now just one victory away from playing for a State Championship.
"Kaysi has been a pleasure to coach the last four years," said Marian's Paul Brutto about his senior shooting guard. "She's a kid that has no off button. She's going full speed and giving 100 percent all the time.
"Whether it's a blowout or a nail biter, it doesn't matter. She is always giving the same kind off effort. As a coach, you love that."
Another thing coaches love are players that can deliver in the clutch – and that's something McLaughlin did against Old Forge.
After hitting a long three-pointer in the first quarter, McLaughlin missed her next six shots and entered the fourth quarter with just three points in the game. But in the final quarter, with the Fillies' season on the line, McLaughlin was money.
After the Lady Devils cut an eight-point Marian lead to just a point, McLaughlin drilled a three from the top of the key to make it 28-24. Then, after Old Forge grabbed its first lead of the second half at 31-30, McLaughlin hit an even bigger three-pointer with 3:42 remaining to give the Fillies a lead they would never relinquish.
"Coach Brutto calls it a shooter's mentality," said McLaughlin about her confidence to keep shooting even if her shots aren't falling. "I didn't have that early in my career. If I missed a couple of shots, I would be hesitant to keep shooting.
"But I'm a senior now and I have developed a lot more confidence as a shooter. Even though I went a stretch tonight when I wasn't hitting, I still was looking for my shot. I got a couple of open looks in the fourth quarter and I didn't hesitate. You always have to believe that the next shot is going in and fortunately they did for me today."
As important as McLaughlin's offense was for Marian, it was her defense that she was most excited about.
McLaughlin had her normal role of guarding the opposition's top perimeter threat. On Saturday, that meant sophomore guard Lauren Carey of Old Forge. Carey entered the game as the Lady Devil's leading scorer and was coming off a career-high 40-point explosion in her previous game against Lebanon Catholic.
McLaughlin was up to the challenge, holding Carey to a season-low three points.
"I love the challenge of guarding the other team's top scorer," said McLaughlin. "I've had the role since last season and I take so much pride in it.
"I get a lot of enjoyment out of making big plays defensively and holding down a great scorer."
McLaughlin was also quick to acknowledge that her big plays offensively and defensively had one thing in common.
"My teammates deserve a lot of the credit," she said. "Offensively, when I wasn't hitting my shots, they did a great job of picking me up. Defensively, I got plenty of help. Anytime Carey got a step on me, someone was there to step in and stop her penetration until I could recover.
"That's what really good teams do. They pick each other up and help each other out."
Marian proved again on Saturday that it is a really good team.
On a day known for celebrating Irish tradition, McLaughlin and her teammates showed that it was also a great day to add to the Fillies' rich basketball tradition.