While Marian is putting together another fine season on the hardwoods, the Fillies had been seeking a signature victory in the Schuylkill League race.
The Fillies got one Monday night, shutting down visiting Tri-Valley 44-33 in a key Schuylkill Division II-III crossover contest.
Marian improved to 13-2 overall (6-2 league) with another strong defensive effort, this time against a Tri-Valley team that has most of its cast back from last year's District 11 Class A championship club that advanced to the PIAA State semifinals.
The Fillies' tenacious man-to-man defense limited the Lady Bulldogs (12-4, 6-2) to single digits in three of four quarters and 10 of 43 shooting (23 percent) from the field.
Gillian Ferko, Marian's 6-1 senior center, drew the task of defending Tri-Valley's 6-3 sophomore Tara Nahodil for most of the game and held Nahodil to two points on just three shot attempts.
"Gill did an amazing job blocking her (Nahodil) out, and Kaysi (McLaughlin) was swatting it away from her down low," said Danielle Tristani, who topped the Fillies on the offensive end with 16 points.
Marian also did an outstanding job on the boards, outrebounding the 'Dawgs 41-20, with Kelly Shober grabbing seven caroms and Corrine Markiewicz getting six.
It was on the foul line that the Fillies held off a late Tri-Valley rally bid, sinking 7-of-9 from the stripe in the fourth quarter.
Tristani noted that Marian has worked to improve its free throw shooting.
"We come in and shoot during lunch and put in extra shooting at practice," explained Tristani. "We know we need to make them down the stretch, because it's important."
The Fillies led 10-8 after one quarter behind four points from Tristani, then extended their advantage to 24-12 with a 14-4 run in the second stanza behind four points apiece from Tristani, McLaughlin and Shober.
"We expected a defensive battle, but we didn't match Marian's intensity on both sides of the ball," said Tri-Valley coach Careen Caulfield. "Their physicality stunned us, and they had us back on our heels."
When McLaughlin (who finished with nine points) banked in a triple with 5:26 left, the Fillies' lead was 33-20, but sophomore guard Juli Weber, who netted a game-high 25 points, poured in 11 straight Tri-Valley points against a Tristani inside hoop to slice the deficit to four at 35-31 with 1:39 to go.
Tristani halted the rally by rebounding Shober's miss on a front end of a one-and-one with 1:33 to go, getting fouled and sinking a pair from the stripe to make it 37-31.
Thirty seconds later, Tristanti connected on two more free throws, and a Shober three-point play with 39.7 seconds left gave the Fillies breathing room at 42-31.
"We made a run, but it was a little too late," said Caulfield. "We had scoring opportunities, but we just didn't execute. A lot of times we came down and had one-and-done situations. We didn't take advantage of our opportunites."
By holding off the 'Dawgs, the Fillies remained in contention for the Schuylkill Division III title.
"We worked as a team," related Tristani. "We dealt with adversity, played together and handled it."
Weber 6-11-17-25, Newswanger 0-0-0-0, Spickler 0-0-0-0, Smeltz 0-0-0-0, M. Stutzman 1-0-0-2, Troutman 2-0-0-4, C. Stutzman 0-0-0-0, Nahodil 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 10-11-17-33.
Green 0-0-0-0, Faust 0-0-0-0, McLaughlin 4-0-0-9, Gutsie 2-2-2-6, Markiewicz 0-0-0-0, Shober 2-3-4-7, Ferko 2-2-2-6, Tristani 4-7-11-16. TOTALS: 14-14-19-44.
Tri-Valley 8 4 5 16 - 33
Marian 10 14 6 14 - 44
Three-point goals: TV-Weber 2; M-McLaughlin 1, Tristani 1.