Colts' success paves way for Yaich's honors
Marian's Matt Yaich didn't set any individual goals prior to the season.
He didn't want to average a certain number of points, didn't need to lead his team in scoring or rebounding, and he never even thought about awards or honors.
Yaich's only goals dealt with the Colts' team success.
"I just wanted to do anything in my power to help the team win," said Yaich. "I knew I had a lot of really good players around me and we had a number of team goals we wanted to accomplish. My only focus was winning basketball games."
Marian did a lot of that.
The Colts went 23-6, reached the Schuyllkill League title game, captured a District 11 Class A championship, and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.
Even though Yaich didn't set any individual goals, he put up some big individual numbers.
Yaich led Marian in scoring (14.6), field goal percentage (53%), free throws made (67) and free throw percentage (75%). He was also second on the team in rebounding (7.0 per game).
Even though Yaich didn't set his sights on winning awards or receiving honors, he did just that.
Just one week after being named third team All-State in Class A, Yaich was selected the 2009-10 TIMES NEWS Basketball Player of the Year.
"I'm thrilled," said Yaich. "I never thought about being named Player of the Year or making the All-State team. "There are so many great players that I had to beat out to receive those honors ... it's pretty amazing to think about."
According to his coach, Yaich was the one who was amazing.
"Matt is the type of player every coach would love to have," said Marian coach Mick Stefanek. "He was an outstanding player, an outstanding leader, and an outstanding young man.
"Matt worked extremely hard to make himself a better basketball player. He was always putting in the extra time. Whether it was staying after practice to work on his shooting, lifting to work on his strength, or doing conditioning to work on his speed and stamina, he was always giving the extra effort."
Stefanek said Yaich did a lot more than just make himself better, however.
"Matt was a great teammate and a great example to the younger kids in the program," Stefanek said. "He was never concerned with getting shots or keeping his scoring average up. He just wanted to do whatever he could to help us win. If we needed somebody to watch the other team's best player, he was able to do that. If we needed help in the paint, he could do that. And if we needed scoring, he could give us that. He did it all for us."
But Yaich almost didn't get a chance to show his versatility or value. Just over a week into the season, he suffered a knee injury in practice. After averaging 17 points a game through Marian's first three games, Yaich's senior season was in jeopardy.
"At first, they thought I might have torn my ACL, which would have ended my season," said Yaich. "But eventually I found out it was an MCL sprain."
Yaich, who missed almost his entire sophomore season after breaking his finger just before the first game, was relieved that this injury wasn't going to end his high school career.
"I missed seven games and then came off the bench for a couple games after I was allowed to return," he said. "But I wasn't worried about the time I missed. The rest of the team did a great job. Everyone was playing well and contributing. I was just happy to have the chance to play again and I think the injury even provided me with some extra motivation to make the most of the second chance."
Yaich averaged double figures during the remainder of the regular season as the Colts captured their third straight Schuylkill League Division 3 title.
Then the postseason started and Yaich took his game to another level.
During Marian's seven playoff games, Yaich had three of his top four scoring games of the season, including a career-high 28 points in a District 11 championship game victory over Pius X.
"I had to wear a pretty restrictive brace on my knee when I first returned," Yaich said. "I was finally able to get that off before the playoffs started and I think that allowed me a little more freedom and movement on the court."
It also allowed Yaich and the Colts to put the finishing touches on a very successful season.
Marian finished with seven more wins than the previous year. They also advanced further in the Schuylkill League, District 11 and PIAA State playoffs than they had in 2009.
Yaich was the key ingredient in Marian's recipe for success.
All the individual honors that followed were just icing on the cake.