POTTSVILLE – Martz Hall isn't exactly Sesame Street, but if it was, last night's District 11 Class A quarterfinal between Marian and Shenandoah Valley would have been brought to you by the letter "D."
"D" as in Defense.
In perhaps one of their best defensive games of the season, the Colts completely shut down a high-scoring Blue Devils offense and advanced to next week's district semifinal with a 42-32 victory.
The win sets up a fourth meeting with second-seeded Mahanoy Area (a 64-35 quarterfinal winner over Moravian Academy) on Tuesday night at Martz Hall (7:30 p.m.).
"When you play at Martz Hall, you need to play defense just because of the size of the court," stated Marian head coach John Patton. "It's hard to get big offensive runs here just because the floor is so long.
"For the past week and half at practice, we've been trying to simulate this court by extending our court from the stage to the front wall," added Patton. "It isn't an easy thing to do, but we told them that if we can play good defense from the three-point line in, the rest of it will take care of itself."
The 32 points was the lowest scoring output for Shenandoah Valley all season (previous low was 41 points, twice to Mahanoy Area) and over 20 points below its season scoring average of 52.8 points per game.
With the game tied at 6-6 after one quarter of play, Shenandoah took a 12-11 lead off back-to-back three pointers by John Storm and Angelo Maskorncik. It was the Blue Devils only lead of the game. The third-seeded Colts answered right back with some long distance shots of their own, as Nick Kweder and Ryan Karnish responded with two three-pointers apiece to give Marian a 23-20 lead at halftime.
Shenandoah had as many turnovers (12) in the first half as they had shot attempts (6-of-12 shooting).
"Credit Marian's defense, they came to play tonight," said Shenandoah Valley head coach Rob Miller. "Coming into Martz Hall for the first time is a tough atmosphere and I think our kids had a tough time adjusting to it. Tonight, it wasn't for a lack of effort on our part, it was just a lack of the ball going into the hoop."
Marian opened the second half on an 8-3 run to take a 31-23 lead. However, Shenandoah fought back to close the deficit to 35-32 with 3:07 left in the game. Those were the last points the Blue Devils would score, as the Colts ended the game on a 7-0 run.
Shenandoah only scored 12 points in the second half and leading scorer Nick Merva (13.2 ppg/73 three-pointers) was held to just two field goals for six points.
"It all comes back to defense and I didn't even realize that we held them to only 12 points in the second half," added Patton. "Late in the game, it's hard to shoot the ball running up and down this court because fatigue starts to set in. I thought Karnish did a fantastic job on Merva, (Anthony) Agosti did a good job on (Justin) Alvarez, and we had a group of guys defending (Chris) Palubinsky.
"We wanted to focus on shutting down Merva first and then work our way to the rest of them. We put Karnish, who's our best shooter, on Merva, who's their best shooter, and even though that takes its toll from a physical standpoint, I thought Ryan did an absolutely amazing job tonight."
Alden Whah paced Marian (18-5) with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
For Shenandoah Valley (14-9), Chris Palubinsky led the way with 12 points and nine rebounds.
"Marian is a senior-laden team and they have high expectations for this season," stated Miller. "While Agosti (a junior) is their floor leader and a great point guard, it's their seniors that do what it takes to win games, and they really stepped up tonight."
Merva 2-0-0-6, Alvarez 3-0-0-6, Marnell 0-0-0-0, Maskornick 2-0-0-5, Palubinsky 3-4-6-12, John Storm 1-0-0-3, Herb 0-0-0-0, Gurski 0-0-0-0, McCole 0-0-0-0, Marconi 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 11-4-6-32.
Talbott 0-0-0-0, Whah 4-5-8-13, Kweder 2-0-0-6, R. Karnish 3-0-0-8, N. Agosti 0-0-0-0, Legath 0-0-0-0, Paisley 0-0-0-0, Richards 2-3-4-7, Swankoski 1-1-3-3, Bilka 0-1-2-1, Damian 0-0-0-0, A. Agosti 1-2-4-4. TOTALS: 13-12-21-42.
Shenandoah 6 14 4 4 - 32
Marian 6 17 8 11 - 42
Three-Pointers: Shenandoah Valley - Merva 2, Palubinsky 2, Maskornick 1, John Storm 1; Marian - Kweder 2, R. Karnish 2.