JIM THORPE Marian's Matt Yaich carried the haunting memories of last year's District 11 championship game loss with him long enough.
It wasn't so much that the Colts lost to a very talented Williams Valley team, it was how they loss a 23-point blowout.
Friday night, Yaich destroyed those bad memories as decisively as he destroyed the Pius X defense.
The Colts' senior forward scored 28 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots to lead Marian to a 56-39 victory over the Royals in the District 11 Class A championship game.
"We've been building to this point for a year now," said Yaich. "To get blown out in the District championship game like we were last year, provided us with a lot of motivation heading into this season.
"We wanted to get back to this game and reverse the result and that's exactly what we did."
The Colts did it thanks in large part to Yaich, who at one point in the first half scored 14 straight Marian points.
"What a game Matt Yaich had for us," said Marian coach Mick Stefanek. "He just had a great first half. He hit some threes, he was tough in the post, he just took over the game for a stretch when we were losing and helped turned things around."
Pius was was leading 10-5 late in the first quarter when Yaich began to take control of the game. A field goal to end the opening quarter, a trey to start the second, an offensive rebound and follow-up, a baseline drive and reverse layup, and another long three. The burst was part of a 16-0 Marian run that turned the deficit into a 21-10 lead. The Royals never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"Our seniors have been a very determined group," said Stefanek. "They used last year's loss to Williams Valley as motivation and were determined to get this District title."
For Yaich, last night's victory must have been like a combination of Christmas Day, New Year's eve and his birthday all rolled into one.
Not only did Yaich contribute a career-high point total as the Colts captured the program's first District 11 championship since 1999, but he couldn't have picked a better place to do it.
"Jim Thorpe is my home town, so when I found out Tuesday night that we were playing here I was pumped up," Yaich said. "This is such an amazing feeling. To get the gold medals after the disappointment of last year, makes all the hard work we put in worth it.
"We have a close group of seniors and we knew this was going to be our last chance at a District title. We've been pointing to this since we walked off the court last year."
One of Yaich's classmates who contributed to the victory was Tommy Gottstein. For the second straight game, Gottstein buried a pair of big three-pointers to help Marian break things open. On Tuesday night in the semifinals, Gottstein hit two triples early in the game as Marian built a 19-4 first quarter lead. Last night against Pius, his big bombs came in the third quarter.
"I just try to contribute anyway I can," said Gottstein. "Tonight, Matt had a great game so the rest of us just had to be role players.
"It was really important to all of us to get back to the District championship game again and this time change the outcome. It feels great to do that."
Drew Sherkness, who had team-high totals of 11 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Cody Decker who had four points, three steals, three rebounds, round out the seniors in Marian's starting line-up.
"I was really motivated tonight," said Sherkness. "I think the entire team was. It wasn't so much that we lost to Williams Valley last year, it was that we played terrible and got blown out. We wanted to redeem ourselves."
Marian's third straight double digit victory in the District 11 playoffs did exactly that.
Yaich and the Colts have finally rid themselves of last season's bad memories.
They celebrated with gold medals.