POTTSVILLE - Last night's District 11 A semifinal was everything area fans expected and more.
Rivals Marian and Mahanoy Area battled from the tip all the way to the end. This one had a bit of everything. There was drama, there was blood, there was chipped teeth, and there was big time shots made.
When the dust settled at Martz Hall it was the Bears that came out on top. Mahanoy went on an 8-2 run to start the fourth, defeating the Colts 44-37 to advance to District 11 A final.
The first half served as a defensive battle. Neither team really showed they were ready to take over the game offensively, combining for just 27 points going into the half.
Mahanoy Area led by three after one, but the Colts allowed just two points in the second to lead 14-13 after two. Both squads looked shaky on the offensive end, rushing shots, and not taking the time to see the floor.
"Everytime we've played them this year it seems that we're just too fast for ourselves, said Mahanoy coach Mickey Holland. "We were just trying to force the issue way too much instead of seeing what we have and making good decisions. The credit has to go to Marian for some of that because they play such physical defense. I also think that when you come into a game focused so much on defense that it takes a little time to get your offense going."
Neither team could pull away in the third, but the Bears did their part to get back on top. Mahanoy outscored the Colts 15-9 in the third, showing better movement on offense and finishing some of their outside opportunities. A big difference from the second where they shot 0-for-9 from the field.
The fourth was where all the drama would lie.
Mahanoy came out with guns blazing going on an 8-2 run to Starr the quarter. A Dylan Mahmod three and then a Larry McNeil triple from the corner extended the Bears lead to 10.
"The three by Mahmod and Larry (McNeil) were the turning point in the game," said Marian coach John Patton. "We missed some shots and they did a good job of getting the ball down the floor quickly to their shooters. I think we did a good job defensively for most of the night they were just big shots hit by good basketball players."
However, Marian would not go quietly into the night. The Colts closed within three after going on 7-0 run. The Bears quickly answered back when Mahmod took it to the bucket strong for the deuce to get the lead back to five.
A scary moment for Bears fans came right after that possession on a rebound when Marian's Anthony Agosti fell into Mahmod's elbow slicing it open and creating a pretty vivid scene on the court. Agosti practically lost his whole front tooth in the process, while Mahmod had a pretty serious laceration to his left elbow. Mahmod returned immediately after getting wrapped up and he helped the Bears finish off the Colts for the remaining three minutes.
The Colts would never get closer than four the rest of the way.
"This was just a huge win for us," said Holland. "This game had a district championship feel to it. The kids really did a good job of just fighting for the win down the stretch. You never want to head home early. Now we have a chance to win a title and we're headed to the state tournament."
Mahmod finished with 15 points for Mahanoy. Anthony Agosti led the Colts with 10 points.
Whah 3-1-4-8, Kweder 1-0-1-2, R. Karnish 3-2-3-9, Richards 1-2-4-4, Swankoski 2-0-2-4, Bilka 0-0-0-0, Damian 0-0-0-0, A. Agosti 3-2-2-10. Totals: 13-7-16-37.
McGee 1-3-4-5, Cavenas 1-7-8-9, Kuzma 3-0-3-6, Mahmod 6-0-4-15, McNeil 2-2-2-7, Merchlinsky 0-0-0-0, Miller 0-2-4-2. Totals: 13-14-23-44
Marian 8 6 9 13 - 37
Mah. Area 11 2 15 16 - 44
Three pointers: M - A. Agosti 2, Karnish 1, Whah 1; MA - Mahmod 3, McNeil 1.