POTTSVILLE – Tri-Valley earned gold...
...but Marian earned respect!
On Saturday night at Martz Hall, the Lady Bulldogs claimed their third straight District 11 Class A Championship with a 60-52 victory over the Fillies.
The win was the third straight for Tri-Valley over Marian this season and marked the third consecutive postseason meeting between the two clubs that the Bulldogs have denied Marian a Schuylkill League and/or District 11 Championship.
However, on Saturday night, the Fillies made sure they would not be denied their dignity.
After suffering 54-21 and 48-21 losses to Tri-Valley earlier this season, some would say Saturday's game was over before it began. Yet Marian proved the doubters wrong by scoring 52 points, which was 10 more than they scored in those previous two contests combined and 23 more points than the Bulldogs have averaged giving up this season (29 points per game).
Then, after trailing 36-21 at halftime, some would say that a comeback would be impossible and another blowout loss was inevitable. Yet, Marian opened the second half on a 19-3 run and actually took a one-point lead (40-39) with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter.
"I feel better about this loss than the other two by a long stretch," stated Marian head coach Paul Brutto. "Obviously you never want to lose, but I'm just so proud of these girls and the effort they showed out there. After the way Tri-Valley took it to us in those first two games, I thought we earned a lot of respect tonight. We may have lost on the scoreboard, but I think in most people's eyes here, we were winners. We played our rear ends off."
It seemed like Marian was in for another long night, as the Bulldogs opened the game on a 9-0 run. However, the Fillies caught a break when 6-4 center Tara Nahodil picked up her second foul of the game with 1:40 remaining in the first quarter and watched the rest of the first half from the bench.
During her absence, Marian took advantage by converting five of its next six field goal attempts to trim the lead to 25-17. However, point guard Julie Weber picked up the slack and sparked Tri-Valley by scoring 12 of her team's 23 points in a second quarter that saw the Bulldogs shoot 8-for-12 from the field.
"We wanted to try to negate Nahodil as best as we could and force their other kids to make some decisions," added Brutto. "The problem was that Weber did a great job with the ball in her hands of penetrating and finding the open person. She played an absolutely fantastic game and was the true epitome of what a point guard should be."
Trailing 36-21 at the half, Marian's Kelly Shober converted two quick buckets (including a three-pointer) in the first 45 seconds of the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10 points. Three minutes later, Shober added a second trey to fuel a 19-3 Marian run that culminated with two consecutive Samantha Faust baskets to give the Fillies a 40-39 lead with 1:46 remaining in the quarter. During that span, Tri-Valley was held without a field goal for over four minutes in a 14-1 Marian run.
"We wanted to come out and push the ball and attack them defensively and offensively. If we were going to go down, we were going to go down swinging," stated Brutto. "We wanted the game up-tempo and helter skelter, and we knew there's always a give and take with that approach. It got us back in the game, but on the same token, we gave up some easy layups."
Following a Tri-Valley timeout, the Bulldogs regrouped and answered back by scoring the final seven points of the third quarter, which in turn ignited a 13-2 Tri-Valley run, en route to a 52-42 lead.
"During the time out, I just told them that we needed to get back to fundamentals – running our half court offense, getting better shots and establishing our post," said Tri-Valley head coach Bob Felty. "On the other side of the ball, we weren't getting back on defense and we weren't stopping dribble penetration."
"In the second half, Marian didn't turn the ball over (just two of its 14 turnovers came in the second half), and if I had to take a guess, I would assume that this was probably their best shooting game of the year," added Felty. "When girls like Kelly Shober are hitting three pointers right in our big girl's face, you tip your hat to them and tell them 'great job'."
Weber scored a game-high 20 points to lead Tri-Valley (26-0), while Nahodil scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half. Chelsea Stutzman added 10 points and Taylor Troutman tallied seven points and 10 rebounds. With the win, the Bulldogs join Mount Carmel (District 4, Class AA), Seton LaSalle (District 7, Class AA) and Bradford (District 9, Class AAA) as the only undefeated girls teams left in the state.
"Both teams played their hearts out," touted Felty. "We established a 15 point lead, but we paid the price for it in the third quarter because we were tired. We're not used to playing as up-tempo as Marian forced us to play tonight."
For Marian (19-6), Kelly Shober and Danielle Tristani scored 15 and 13 points respectively. As the runner-up in District 11, Marian will advance to the State Touranment where it will meet District 4 runner-up Line Mountain (24-1) on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Shikellamy Fieldhouse in Sunbury.
"We're hoping we can use this game as motivation for the State Tournament," concluded Brutto. "The door is open for us to win a couple of games if we can play like we did tonight. We appreciate the effort, we respect it and now we move forward."
Green 3-1-2-7, Faust 4-1-2-9, McLaughlin 2-1-4-6, Bray 0-0-0-0, Sofranko 1-0-0-2, Nemeth 0-0-0-0, Wilson 0-0-0-0, Shober 6-0-1-15, Tristani 5-3-4-13. TOTALS: 21-6-13-52.
Weber 7-5-8-20, Newswanger 2-0-2-4, Spickler 1-1-2-3, Smeltz 0-0-1-0, Troutman 2-3-6-7, Stutzman 5-0-1-10, Nahodil 7-2-2-16. TOTALS: 24-11-22-60.
Marian 6 15 19 12 - 52
Tri-Valley 13 23 10 14 - 60
Three-Pointers: M - Shober 3, McLaughlin 1; TV - Weber 1.