With the game on the line, Marian's Chris Barletta played like an MVP – and that's exactly what he was.
Barletta was named Most Valuable Player of the Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday night after leading the Colts to a 50-46 double overtime victory over Mahanoy Area.
Barletta followed up a 30-point performance in Marian's semifinal win over Panther Valley, with a 27-point effort against the Golden Bears.
More importantly, the Colts' senior point guard did it when it mattered most, scoring 18 of his points in the fourth quarter and the overtime periods.
"Chris Barletta is a special player," said Marian coach John Patton, "What you see on the court is the result of a lot of hard work. He's always in the gym. He's always working on his game."
Down the stretch, Barletta had five baskets that either tied the game or put Marian ahead, including shots that knotted the game at the end of regulation and the first OT.
"Mahanoy Area is a tough defensive team so I just had to stay patient and try not to force things," said Barletta. "I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and they made some big plays to keep us in the game.
"But I'm a competitor and when the game was on the line I was confident I could make the plays. I just wanted to do what I needed to help us win."
Early on, it didn't looked like Barletta or any of the Colts were going to have a chance to make big plays down the stretch as Mahanoy Area raced out to a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter.
"We were down early and were really struggling offensively," said Patton. "Mahanoy Area plays great defense so you're not going to get many big runs against them.
"The key for us was that we played great defense ourselves. That enabled us to stay in the game until we finally were able to get a few shots to drop."
Mahanoy Area led 33-31 in the final minute of the fourth quarter, but Barletta got into the lane to tie the game with :18 left. The Bears led 39-37 in the first OT after Francis Senglar hit a pair of free throws with :42 remaining, but Barletta converted from in close for Marian to tie it again.
The Golden Bears called time outs and had the final shot at the end of both regulation and the first overtime, but couldn't convert.
"We didn't get the shots we wanted either time," said Mahanoy Area coach Mickey Holland. "We didn't execute the plays like I had hoped. But it's early in the season and we will learn from that.
"I thought it was a great game. Both teams played extremely hard and left everything out on the court. In the end, we just didn't do a good enough job on Barletta. He's a super player."
After a three-pointer by Senglar gave Mahanoy Area it final lead early in the second overtime, Barletta answered with 2:20 left to give Marian a 43-42 lead.
Free throws by Barletta and Ryan Gimbi increased the Colt lead to 47-42 with just :35 to play, but Senglar answered with four quick points in a two-second span to pull the Golden Bears to within 47-46.
Barletta made a free throw with :05 remaining and Marian's Mark Stawick finally sealed the win with a steal in the backcourt and two free throws with less than a second remaining.
"This is a good win for our program," said Patton. "With all the new faces we have in our line-up, to come in here and beat quality teams on back-to-back nights is a nice confidence boost for our kids."
In addition to Barletta, the All-Tournament team consisted of the Marian's Gimbi, Mahanoy Area's Senglar and Mike Gaval, Panther Valley's Brock Mitchell and Jim Thorpe's Dean DeBonifazio.
Senglar 7-4-5-19, Wagner 2-0-0-6, Kimmel 1-3-5-5, Gaval 5-0-0-10, Goodman 1-1-3-4, Oertner 0-0-0-0, McGee 0-0-0-0, Baker 0-0-0-0, Cavenas 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-8-13-46.
Keer 1-0-0-2, Barletta 10-7-10-27, Karnish 0-0-0-0, Stawick 1-2-4-4, Gimbi 2-4-7-8, Baker 0-0-0-0, Nesgoda 0-0-0-0, Do. Richards 2-0-2-4. Agosti 0-0-0-0, Pilla 2-0-1-5. TOTALS: 18-13-24-50.
Mahanoy A. 15 5 5 8 6 7 - 46
Marian 7 11 5 10 6 11 - 50
Three-pointers: Marian – Pilla 1. Mahanoy Area – Gaval 2, Wagner 2, Senglar 1, Goodman 1.