POTTSVILLE – The old cliche states that defense wins championships.
Last night, it also won Nativity a trip to Martz Hall for next week's Schuylkill League playoffs.
With a 52-41 victory over Marian, the Golden Girls (15-6, 10-2) claimed their third consecutive Schuylkill League Division 3 championship and will now play either Tamaqua or Pine Grove (depending on who wins Sunday night's play-in game between Minersville and Tri-Valley) on Wednesday night.
Nativity, who has now posted seven straight wins over the Fillies dating back to the 2008 season, scored the first five points of the game and played with the lead for the remainder of the contest.
With both teams priding themselves on their defense, it was a dominant effort from the Golden Girls that made the difference.
Nativity forced Marian into 24 turnovers and rarely gave the Fillies an open look at the basket, as they held Marian to 36-percent shooting from the floor (15-for-42).
"I thought our girls really moved well defensively tonight and they had their hands active all game," stated Nativity head coach George Forney. "We came out playing man defense and then switched to a 2-3 zone when they started pounding the ball inside to Gillian (Ferko). We haven't played zone that often this year, but we played it pretty well tonight."
Marian (18-3, 10-3), who entered the game giving up just 28.0 points per game, yielded a season-high 52 points, as Nativity attempted 61 shots from the floor. The Fillies are 18-0 when holding opponents to under 40 points and are 0-3 when teams score more than 40 (including Nativity twice).
"There was a lot on the line tonight with the excitement of being in the Schuylkill League playoffs," said Marian head coach Paul Brutto. "We didn't play as well as we could have tonight and that's what's most disappointing. We got rattled and lost our composure, so you have to give Nativity credit for forcing us into mistakes."
The Fillies turned the ball over nine times in the opening quarter and Nativity jumped out to an 18-10 lead. The Golden Girls extended the lead to 10 points off back-to-back three-pointers by freshman Olivia Andrefski midway through the second quarter and took a 32-22 lead into the break.
"Nativity played 100-percent better as a team tonight," added Brutto. "We didn't move the ball, we took bad shots and I think we played more at their pace. They're a quicker smaller team and rather than trying to get the ball in the paint which is to our advantage, we had girls taking outside shots after one or two passes."
Nativity extend its lead to 46-29 early in the fourth quarter thanks to an 8-0 run. The Fillies then answered back with an 8-0 run of their own, but they could never close the gap to less than eight points.
"Nativity was definitely more intense tonight and once we got down, it was tough to get anything going defensively because Kiely Chaklos is so good at handling the ball," concluded Brutto. "Her ability and experience at point guard was a big difference because she doesn't turn the ball over and she's going to find the open person."
Gillian Ferko and Danielle Tristani combined to score 32 of Marian's 41 points. Ferko had 20 points to go along with nine rebounds, while Tristani added 12 points.
For Nativity, Chaklos led the way with 12 points and Nikki Farr added 10.
The Golden Girls shot 20-for-61 from the floor and committed just nine tournovers. Marian outrebounded Nativity 39-33.
In the JV contest, Nativity posted a 50-47 victory. Marian's Gabby Green netted 21 points in the loss.
The Fillies will return to the court next Thursday when they travel to Wilkes-Barre to play Holy Redeemer in their final regular season game.
Green 1-0-0-2, Faust 0-2-2-2, McLaughlin 1-1-2-3, Gutsie 0-0-0-0, Markiewicz 1-0-0-2, Shober 0-0-0-0, Ferko 7-6-7-20, Tristani 5-0-0-12. TOTALS: 15-9-11-41.
Barber 0-0-0-0, Farr 3-4-5-10, Hughes 4-0-0-8, Ditzel 3-1-2-7, Chaklos 4-4-4-12, Andrefski 3-0-0-9, Holohan 3-0-0-6, Field 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-9-11-52.
Marian 10 12 7 12 - 41
Nativity 18 14 10 10 - 52
Three-pointers: Marian - Tristani 2; Nativity - Andrefski 3.