POTTSVILLE – Most coaches will tell you that moral victory is just another name for a loss.
But Marian coach Paul Brutto has been around long enough to know that all losses are not created equal.
Sometimes you don't have to score more points than your opponent to win. Sometimes the scoreboard doesn't tell the entire story.
Marian's 60-52 loss Tri-Valley on Saturday at Martz Hall in the District 11 Class A championship game is one of those occasions.
That's because when it comes to the Pennsylvania high school basketball playoffs, the district final is actually just the beginning of the quest for the biggest prize – a PIAA State Championship.
Marian's performance against the undefeated Bulldogs could be a great start toward that goal.
"I told the girls in the locker room that they should be extremely proud of themselves," said Brutto. "I really appreciated their effort tonight and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Brutto's pride was the result on an incredible third quarter rally by the Fillies against a team that had beaten them badly in two previous games this season.
Marian had suffered losses by 27 and 33 points to the Bulldogs earlier this season. At halftime of Saturday's game, the Fillies trailed by 15 points and rout number three seemed to be a lock.
"Coach Brutto was pretty loud at halftime," said Kaysi McLaughlin, one of three senior starters for the Fillies who have been playing together on the varsity for the past four seasons. "He really challenged us. He asked us if we were going to let Tri-Valley embarrass us again.
"We have a lot of pride in ourselves and in our team. I think we all took that challenge to heart."
Marian responded in incredible fashion, opening the third quarter with a 19-3 run. When Sam Faust scored on a fastbreak layup with 1:46 left in the third quarter, Marian had wiped out the huge halftime deficit and had grabbed a 40-39 lead.
Like a true champion, Tri-Valley took the Fillies' best punch and fought back. Staggered for one of the few times during their perfect season, the Bulldogs closed the quarter with a 7-0 run.
Marian continued to battle in the final quarter, but this time Tri-Valley maintained its lead and pulled out the victory.
"I don't think anyone gave us much of a chance tonight, especially after that first half," said Marian senior Kelly Shober, who had team high totals of 15-points and seven rebounds in the game. "But this was all about respect. I think we earned some respect tonight with the way we battled and the way we fought back.
"But like coach said after the game, our strong second half doesn't mean anything if we don't build on it. This should give us a lot of confidence heading into the state playoffs. If we can play like we did in the second half, we can beat anyone."
Danielle Tristani, the third veteran senior starter in the Fillies' lineup, knows the biggest goal - a PIAA state championship - is still out there.
"We made it to the Schuylkill League championship game and the District 11 championship, but came up short both times," Tristani said. "There is only one more championship out there and that's our goal now.
"We've had a great four years. We've won a lot of games, but we haven't won a championship yet. We still have a chance for the more important championship of all. That would be a great way to cap our careers."
If the Fillies are able to make that run, they'll be able to trace it back to Saturday night's loss.
Because sometimes a loss can be another name for a moral victory.