The Marian Fillies have had their share of unsung heroes step up this season.
Saturday afternoon was no different.
With Fillies' inside forces of Kelly Shober and Danielle Tristani on the bench for almost half of the second quarter, Marian needed to depend on their role players to keep the game manageable. Once again, the Marian reserves didn't disappoint taking a one-point lead into intermission and Marian was able to hold on for a 44-39 victory over Old Forge to advance to the Class A State Semifinal.
The theme of the day was sloppy and both teams showed early on that points weren't going to be easy to come by and neither were good possessions. The Fillies (21) and Blue Devils (27) combined for 48 turnovers in the game.
"It was definitely a sloppy game," said Marian head coach Paul Brutto. "It was a battle between two great defensive teams and they gave us everything we could handle and then some on the defensive side of the ball. They really come after you and their a scrappy bunch of tough kids."
The first half scoring was a direct product of the sloppy play with Marian heading into the locker room with a lowly 14-13 advantage. The Fillies held the Blue Devils to just four points in the first quarter, forcing six turnovers. A big reason for the Fillies dominant "D" was senior forward Kelly Shober. Shober was a demon in all facets of the game tallying four points, four rebounds, three steals, and a block in the frame.
"This is the kind of game you love to be part of as a player," said Shober. "It was a hard fought battle and every possession was important. We are a team that fights and scraps for everything and that's what it took today."
Compared to the first half, the second half was an offensive explosion. The two teams combined for 56 points in the third and fourth, a far cry from their combined 27 in the first half.
The Fillies reserves did their job well, but Marian's big three of Shober, Tristani, and Kaysi McLaughlin led the Fillies offensive charge scoring 22 of their 30 points in the second half.
"We're about seven or eight girls deep," said Brutto. "We've had unsung heroes all year long and those girls have been very important to our success, but you can't win big games unless your scorers come to play and that's what our girls did in the second half."
The Blue Devils gave the Fillies some trouble mid-way through the third when they switched from an extended 2-3 zone to a full-court zone press. It gave Marian some trouble initially, but the Fillies settled down and handled the Old Forge pressure from then on. Something that Brutto was happy to see the Fillies improve on from their early season struggles with full-court pressure.
"Since the fourth quarter of the Jim Thorpe game in the league playoffs we have gotten much better handling full-court pressure, said Brutto. "They knocked us back a step with their pressure, but I was proud of the way we gained our composure and handled their press for the rest of the game."
Marian went into the fourth quarter with a two-point lead and never got comfortable throughout. At the four minute mark Old Forge actually took a one-point lead on back to back scores from Taylor Nemetz. Nemetz canned a three and then on the following possession streaked in for a lay-up after a Fillies turnover at mid-court.
A McLaughlin three at 3:40 gave the Fillies back the lead, which they would never relinquish, but Old Forge kept within striking distance till the very end. Perhaps the biggest play of the day came with Marian up three with about 45 seconds remaining. The Fillies' Tristani grabbed an offensive rebound and on the put back flipped the ball towards the basket scoring and getting fouled in the process. Tristani hit the free throw and gave Marian a six-point cushion that eventually led to the win.
Shober finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, and five steals for Marian. McLaughlin added 11 with Tristani chipping in nine.
Morgan Malia was the offensive pillar for the Devils all day scoring a game-high 13 points.
With the win Marian will now advance to the Class A State semifinal for the ninth time under coach Brutto.
Green 1-1-4-3, Faust 2-2-2-6, McLaughlin 3-2-4-11, Sofranko 1-2-4-4, Nemeth 0-0-0-0, Shober 2-7-12-11, Tristani 2-5-10-9. TOTALS: 11-19-36-44.
Vieira 1-0-0-2, Barnic 1-1-1-4, Malia 6-1-2-13, Carey 1-1-2-3, Lee 1-0-0-2, Nemetz 3-1-2-8, Souryavong 0-2-2-2, Tansley 2-1-2-5. TOTALS: 15-7-11-39.
Marian 7 7 10 19 - 44
Old Forge 4 9 9 17 - 39
Three-pointers: Marian - McLaughlin 3; Old Forge - Barnic 1, Nemetz 1.