Marian has come one game short of the district title game in each of the past two years. The Fillies reached the semifinals each year, but fell to Nativity last year and Tri Valley in 2009.
This year the Marian girls return to the District 11 Class A title game for the first time since 2008 as they take on Tri Valley Saturday at 1 p.m. at Martz Hall.
"We worked extremely hard to get here," Marian head coach Paul Brutto said. "It was disappointing and frustrating the last two years to not be able to be in this position and play for a district championship.
"But, now we get that chance again and also have the opportunity – no matter what happens – to be in the state tournament."
The Fillies had qualified for the State Tournament 14 straight times until missing it the last two seasons.
Tri-Valley, the defending District 11 Class A champion, and Marian met once during the regular season with the Fillies winning, 44-33.
"I don't think we were playing our best basketball at that point in time," said Bulldog head coach Careen Caulfield, of the game played back on January 24. "All the credit goes to Marian for forcing us into playing as poorly as we did. They put a lot of defensive pressure on us and forced us to turn the ball over.
"At that point of the season we hadn't seen a team play with that type of defensive pressure that Marian does. Now, we won't be so shocked. We know what we will be in for and hopefully our girls will respond to their intensity."
The Fillies' have some seasoned veterans in seniors Gillian Ferko and Corine Markiewicz and juniors Danielle Tristani and Kaysi McLaughlin in their starting lineup. On the other hand, the Bulldogs don't have any seniors in their line-up. Brutto said that's deceiving, however.
"Some of those kids went deep into the state playoffs last year," Brutto said. "While they're young in age, they have a lot of big game experience under them. I would say big-game wise they're more experienced than we are. They also have the comfort zone of having already played at Martz Hall three times the last couple of weeks.
"I think when a team gets there for the first time in a given year it's a feeling out process because of the size of the facility and the size of the court compared to your normal gyms. I think those are a couple of intangible factors that they have in their favor."
Caulfield is concerned with the depth on the Fillies' bench, which consists of senior Kaycee Gutsie, junior Kelly Shober and sophomore Sam Faust. .
"Marian has a deep bench, which is very beneficial for them," said Caulfied. "They can go a little deeper than we can. They really don't skip a beat when they substitute either. So, they're keeping people fresh.
"We typically don't go that deep and when we do get into our bench typically our first two subs are freshmen. That's gives them a little bit of an edge there."
Tri-Valley's starting line-up conists of junior Rayne Newswanger (3.9 point per game) and sophomores Juli Weber (13.9), Taylor Troutman (7.1), Chelsea Stutzman (1.8) and Tara Nahodil (11.2). Nahodil is coming off a 29-point performance against Nativity in the semis.
"We held the big kid (Nahodil) to like two or three points," Brutto stressed. "I think they're going to make a more conserted effort to get her involved early and try to get her off because she's a difficult match-up because she's 6-4 with a wide body.
"I think they're just going to try get them more touches than they did. So, we have to do our best to make those touches come further out than she would like."
While Brutto thinks inside play could be the key, Caulfield believes the opposite
"They have an inside presence (in Ferko and Tristani) as well as we do (in Nahodil)," Caulfield said. "So, it will be interesting to see if that neutralizes each other and if the guards will be the difference in the game."