POTTSVILLE - With the Marian Fillies returning just one starter from last year, not too many people expected them to be around at this time of the post-season playoffs.
Head coach Paul Brutto has had his team in the playoffs like it was a yearly ritual. So to see his team one game away for a shot at a District 11 Class A title didn't surprise him.
The Fillies (16-9) ran in to a more experienced Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg team on Wednesday night and they came up a bit short, falling to the Spartans, 40-32 at Martz Hall in Pottsville.
The Spartans lost to the Fillies last year in overtime and waited 12 months to erase that memory.
Marian had to play without leading scorer and junior guard Gabby Green, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the win over Nativity over the weekend.
The Fillies also had freshman Savana Krusinsky, who was playing well with six points in the first quarter, become ill in the second quarter. She was taken to the locker room, suffering from nausea, and didn't get back into the game until just under 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Marian was able to stay with Notre Dame during the first half as Emily Sofranko scored all eight of her points before the break that saw the game tied seven times. It was a bucket off an offensive rebound by Tolu Oladugbewo in the final minute that gave the Spartans a 25-23 lead at the half.
Notre Dame center Lacey LaRezza dominated the boards in the first half and scored all 10 of her points, keeping the Spartans in front.
In the second half, the Spartans switched to a 3-2 zone and it proved to be the difference as the Fillies just couldn't seem to crack it.
"We haven't been good all year in the half court," said Brutto when asked about his team offensive struggles. "So without Gabby, it only made it worse. We had people out of position. We did get a lot of open shots, we just didn't make any. That happens on given nights. Especially here where it's tough to shoot. When they went zone we struggled."
With 47 seconds to go in the third quarter, the score was tied at 29-29. The Fillies managed to score just three more points the rest of the night.
The Spartans only had one field goal in the final eight minutes, but made 7-of-14 from the charity stripe to ice it.
Krusinsky looked to be the go-to girl early and when she got sick, that also hurt.
"For the limited time she was in there, she was a real service, so that kind of knocked us out of wack for a bit." said Brutto. "They (the Spartans) did a nice job, their zone bothered us. That was a good job by them. They extended it and that's kind of where with Gab not being there hurt us."
Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg will take on Tri-Valley, a 46-37 winner over Shenandoah Valley, in its first trip ever to the Class A championship on Saturday.
Angelica Bertola finished with a game-high 12 points for the Spartans, backed up by LaRezza. Samantha Faust led the Fillies with nine points.
Brutto hopes that the loss to the Spartans opens up the eyes of his underclassmen that have a lot to build on.
"I was proud of our kids," he said. "They battled hard, gave us a good effort all year. I think we surprised some people with our record considering all that we lost. Hopefully we'll work hard in the off-season and be back in the same situation again next year."
Baranko 1-0-0-2, Fannick 1-0-0-2, Faust 2-5-6-9, Krusinsky 3-0-0-6, Nemeth 1-0-0-2, Shaud 1-1-1-3, Sofranko 4-0-0-8. TOTALS: 13-6-7-32.
NO. DAME ES
Bailey 1-4-9-6, Bertola 4-2-4-12, LaRezza 5-0-3-10, Leming 2-2-2-6, Oladugbewo 1-0-0-2, E. Pope 0-0-0-0, V. Pope 0-0-0-0, Smith 2-0-0-4. TOTALS: 15-8-18-40.
Marian 10 13 6 3 - 32
NDES 11 14 6 9 - 40
Three-pointers: M - none; NDES - Bertola 2.