LANSFORD – Pius X isn't exactly the "Dream Team," but they brought a taste of the NBA with them to Panther Valley last night.
Starting for the Royals were sophomore center Lyndon Ewing (cousin of 11-time NBA All-Star Patrick Ewing, the first overall pick of the New York Knicks in the 1985 NBA draft) and freshman guard Eric Marbury (nephew of 2-time NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury, the fourth overall pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1996 NBA Draft).
Sitting on the bench and coaching the Royals was Dallas Comegys (the 21st overall pick of the Atlanta Hawks in the 1987 NBA Draft).
While Ewing and Marbury won't be playing for any Olympic gold medals this time around, they'll certainly have their sights set on District gold, as Pius X posted a 67-51 semifinal round victory over Marian to advance to the District 11 Class A championship game on Friday night against Mahanoy Area (a 51-18 winner over Lincoln Leadership Academy).
Ewing led the Royals (16-8) with a game-high 17 points, while Marbury finished with 12. Also coming up big were Tyler Catania and Caleb Knudsen, who both chipped in 15 points apiece. However, the real "X" factors for Pius were its size, speed and athleticism, something Marian just didn't have an answer for.
With the Colts holding a 4-2 lead in the opening minutes (their lone lead of the game), Pius X surged back with a 10-0 run to take a 12-4 lead. They would later extend the margin to 20-6 early in the second quarter, before Marian began closing the gap with a 14-4 run which was fueled by Eric Swankoski's 10 points. At the half, the Colts trailed by just four points (27-23).
However, the third quarter was all Royals. Marbury began the second half burying a three-pointer and Anothy Holmes followed suit with a trey of his own. The 6-5 Ewing then went to work inside by scoring 10 straight points to give Pius X a comfortable 43-28 advantage.
"In the first half, Ewing got in foul trouble and they were forced to go to their bench, which allowed us to hang in there and keep the tempo of the game more in our favor," stated Marian head coach John Patton. "They were definitely a step quicker than us and I thought we started playing into their hands a little bit in the third quarter.
"We allowed them to get out and run and they fed off that. They scored 27 points in the first half and then come out and score 24 in the third quarter, a lot of which were transition points."
Pius X began the fourth quarter leading by 20 points, but the Colts would just not go away, as they trimmed the deficit to 10 with just 2:21 remaining in the game. However, that would be as close as Marian would get, as the Royals closed out the scoring by converting on 7 of their 10 free throw attempts down the stretch.
"I was pretty pleased with how we started the game (scoring 18 points in the first quarter), but then we kind of took our foot of the gas there in the second quarter. We began to play soft and then we had shots and layups that we just couldn't finish, which let Marian back in the game," noted Pius X head coach AJ. DePue. "In the third quarter, we came out with the same intensity we started that game with and that really pushed us over the top of where we were looking to go. I think it was more about intensity and pressure than it was anything else."
Swankoski (who exited the game midway through the third quarter with a leg injury) led Marian with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Zach Motil scored all 10 of his points in the second half. The Colts' benched ended up outscoring their starters 27-24.
After winning the District 11 Class A championship in each of the previous two years, Marian finishes its season at 13-11.
"A couple of weeks ago, we were sitting at 4-8 with no idea of where we'd end up," concluded Patton. "But here we were in the District semifinals with basically a group of kids that had little to no varsity experience coming into this season. Pius is a great team and this obviously wasn't the outcome that we were looking for, but I couldn't be any more proud of our kids and the effort they've shown to get here."
The Colts shot 17-for-48 from the floor, while Pius X made 21 of its 56 shot attempts. Marian outrebounded the Royals 42-29 (13-8 on the offensive end), but committed 23 turnovers, while forcing only seven.
Talbott 0-0-0-0, Whah 2-0-1-4, Kweder 0-0-1-0, Karnish 2-0-0-5, Pilla 3-0-0-8, Latham 0-0-0-0, Motil 4-2-4-10, Julian 0-0-0-0, Richards 0-7-8-7, Swankoski 5-2-3-12, Bilka 0-0-0-0, Weber 1-2-2-4, Damian 0-0-0-0, Stawick 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 17-14-21-51.
Goffredo 0-0-0-0, Marbury 3-5-8-12, Holmes 2-1-2-6, Russell 0-0-0-0, Catania 4-5-9-15, Knudsen 5-4-7-15, Ewing 6-5-6-17, Martino 1-0-0-2, Plante 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-20-32-67.
Marian 6 17 10 18 - 51
Pius X 18 9 24 16 - 67
Three-Pointers: Marian - Pilla 2, Karnish 1; Pius X - Catania 2, Marbury 1, Holmes 1, Knudsen 1.