POTTSVILE – Kaysi McLaughlin struggled to fight back the tears.
Minutes earlier, McLaughlin and her Marian teammates had dropped a 32-27 decision to Tri-Valley in the District 11 Class A championship game.
Despite a valiant effort by McLaughlin, the Fillies' gold medal dreams faded to silver.
On a day when offense was at a premium for both teams, McLaughlin led Marian in scoring with 11 points. Her contribution at the defense end was even more impressive as she held dangerous Bulldog point guard Julie Weber – the team's leading scorer – to just four points.
Those numbers didn't matter to McLaughlin, however. The only thing she cared about were the final numbers on the scoreboard.
"This hurts," said McLaughlin. "Winning the district championship was one of our goals and to get this far and come up short is hard."
Marian coach Paul Brutto then walked over, gave McLaughlin a hug, and reminded her of what he told the team in the ed her of what he told the team in the locker room after the game.
"Coach Brutto told us that he has coached teams that won districts and made it to the state championship game and he's also coached teams that didn't win districts but still made it to the state championship game," McLaughlin said. "The key for us is to refocus.
"This loss will hurt for a little while, but we have to put it behind us and let it motivate us. Our main goal was to win a state championship and that goal is still out there."
Marian will begin that quest next Saturday. The Fillies enter the PIAA State Tournament as the District 11 runner-up and will face District 4 runner-up Line Mountain, which dropped a 62-40 decision to Lourdes in the District 4 title game.
"The good news for us is that this loss doesn't end our season," said Brutto. "The last two years we lost to Nativity and Tri-Valley in the district semifinals and our season was over.
"This loss stings, but we still have a chance to ease that sting. The biggest prize is still out there."
Brutto speaks from experience.
Before missing the state playoffs the last two seasons, the Fillies had made an incredible run of 14 straight state tournament appearances under his direction.
Brutto has taken teams to the state championship game four times (1997, 2003, 2005 and 2008) and just two of those four teams entered states as a District 11 champ.
"I explained to our girls after the game that there is still a lot of time left in the season," said Brutto. "That might sound crazy, but it's true.
"This will be an important week of practice. We need to refocus and get our energy level back up. Our kids just need to look at the program's history to realize that anything is still possible."
Brutto believes that this year's team has the potential to still make a lot of noise.
"Looking at the [state] bracket, I think there are going to be a lot of 50-50 type games for both us and Tri-Valley.
"I don't see a real dominant team out there. So I think there is definitely the opportunity for both of us to make a run in the tournament."