The ability to finish off an opponent or finish a ball game strong is an invaluable trait for a basketball team to possess.

Four out of the five losses for the Marian Colts (15-5, 7-4 SL) this season were instances in which they were in the game. At times they were leading late, but couldn't finish off their opponent or make the plays to win in crunch time.

However, with the District 11 playoffs right around the corner the Colts are starting to find their stride. Marian finished off a hot Nativity team last week and last night took down division rival Shenandoah Valley 57-55 in overtime for a huge Schuylkill League victory.

The Blue Devils have been having the opposite problem of the Colts this season, which is starting slow at the beginning of the ball game. Yesterday evening was no different.

Marian jumped out to a 21-9 lead halfway through the second quarter. The Devils shot just 36 percent from the field in the first half and had trouble finding quality shots. Once again though, the Colts let Shenandoah get back in the game, getting outscored 8-2 in the final three and a half minutes in the second quarter to hold just a six point advantage at the break.

"We're the kind of team that always does a good job of getting back into a game if we're down, but we just have to do a better job of getting off to good starts," said Shenandoah coach Robbie Miller. "It's one of those things where we bounce back during the course of a game, but it's not the type of situation you want to be in. Hopefully, we can straighten that out before we enter district play."

The two battled throughout the third and fourth quarters as well.

The Colts led 33-31 after three, still holding the lead, but the fourth looked to be all so familiar to Marian faithful as they would see the Devils go on top 34-33 after a Chris Palubinsky three-point play. There were many guys that stepped up on both teams throughout the game and Palubinsky was one of them, scoring 10 of his 16 points in the fourth and overtime period.

The Devils would lead for most of the fourth until the 2:20 mark when senior Ryan Karnish hit a three to tie the game up at 45 all. The Marian seniors came to play against the Devils combining for 48 of the Colts 57 points. Eric Swankoski turned in his best effort of the season with 18, Karnish added 11, Damian Richards had nine, and big man Alden Whah finished with 8.

"Our seniors played really hard tonight because we didn't go deep on the bench at all," said Marian coach John Patton. "Swankoski had a great game, Karnish hit some big shots, and Richards made the big plays down the stretch that were able to get us the win. They're a great bunch of kids and they all made big plays tonight."

Richards certainly made big plays for the Colts, scoring all nine of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime, while going three-for-three from the charity stripe in that time. He converted a lay-up inside to get the Colts to overtime and in OT took a Shenandoah Valley defender off the dribble, finishing strong on the right side of the hoop to seal the win for Marian.

"What we found out over these last two games is that we are the type of team that can close out solid teams," said Patton. "Going forward these are the games we're going to play so this is a good one to get and we need to continue to play with the same kind of urgency."

Marian outscored Shenandoah 10 to eight in overtime to get the victory, with Richards lay-up coming with just 6.8 seconds remaining in overtime.

For the Devils Nick Merva added 12, while John Storm tallied 11.

SHENANDOAH VY.

Marconi 0-0-0-0, Palubinsky 7-2-3-16, Storm 5-1-2-11, Merva 3-4-5-12, Alvarez 2-1-3-5, Herb 0-3-4-3, Maskornick 3-0-4-8, Marnell 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-11-21-55.

MARIAN

A. Agosti 4-0-2-9, Whah 3-2-2-8, Kweder 0-0-0-0, R. Karnish 5-1-2-13, Richards 3-3-5-9, Swankoski 8-2-3-18, Damian 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 23-8-14-57.

Shenandoah Vy 7 10 14 16 8 - 55

Marian 11 12 10 14 10 - 57

Three-pointers: SV - Merva 2, Maskornick 2; M - Karnish 2, Agosti 1.