Marian reaches title game
steve shinko/special to the times news Marian's Matt Yaich takes a shot over Jim Thorpe defender Rashid Epps.
POTTSVILLE - Matt Yaich knew it was his last chance to avoid an o-fer against his hometown team.
Marian's senior forward did it by playing a nearly perfect game.
Yaich scored a game-high 22 points, pulled down eight rebounds and missed just one shot the entire night.
His effort led the Colts to a 62-46 victory over Jim Thorpe in the semifinals of the Schuylkill League playoffs.
Marian, which has now won 14 of its last 15 games, will go after its first-ever Schuylkill boys championship on Friday at 7:30 when it plays Pottsville. The Crimson Tide defeated Williams Valley, 54-39, in the other semifinal.
"I'm from Jim Thorpe and I'm friends with all their players," said Yaich. "So this is always a huge game for me.
"In my three years on varsity, I had never beaten them (0-for-5) before tonight. But I guess the win couldn't come at a better time. This was really important for me and the team."
For the Colts, the third time was the charm against Jim Thorpe. After losing by five and 12 points to the Olympians earlier this season, Marian never trailed last night.
"We struggled a little bit offensively in the earlier games we played against Jim Thorpe," said Marian coach Mick Stefanek. "Our goal tonight was to score at least 50 points. We were 12-0 this year when we did that.
"We felt that it we could find some offense, our defense would be good enough for us to win. I think we've only given up more than 50 points four times all year, so we felt pretty good about our chances if we could get to that number."
The Colts did in large part because of Yaich and point guard Chris Barletta. Yaich was eight-for-nine from the field and six-for-six from the foul line to lead the offense. Barletta added 15 points and consistently broke down the Olympian defense to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.
"Marian played better than us tonight. They just beat us," said Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll. "It's tough to beat a quality opponent three times.
"Tonight, they executed better offensively and defensively."
Marian forced eight Olympian turnovers in the first quarter as it jumped out to a 15-10 lead. The Colts then hit their first four shots from the field in the second quarter and took a 26-19 lead into the lockers at half.
"I thought the kids did a great job of executing our game plan," said Stefanek. "We wanted to defend their 'big three' [Rashid Epps, Sam Lux and Corey Cincola].
"Our goal was to limit their scoring opportunities and make someone else beat us. Lux got a few baskets in transition, but overall I thought we did a good job of defending their halfcourt offense."
The Olympians got to within 31-28 on back-to-back baskets by Lux late in the third quarter. But Marian built the lead back to 38-32 thanks to a Gottstein trey in the final seconds of the period.
The Colts (19-4) quickly extended the lead to double digits in the fourth quarter and never allowed Thorpe to make a serious run.
"We were well prepared," said Yaich. "We knew exactly what we needed to do to ly what we needed to do to win.
"Coach Stefanek also did some things with the story that was in the newspaper after they beat us last time to provide some extra motivation. But I really didn't need any extra motivation. I couldn't have been more motivated than I was."
Lux had 14 points and Epps added 13 to lead Jim Thorpe (16-7).
Barletta 6-1-3-15, O'Donnell 1-0-0-3, Stawick 0-0-0-0, Nesgoda 0-0-0-0, Decker 1-0-0-3, Gimbi 3-1-3-7, Gottstein 2-0-0-6, Yaich 8-6-6-22, Sherkness 0-6-12-6, Fital 0-0-0-0, Martin 0-0-0-0, Pilla 0-0-2-0, Karnish 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-14-26-62
Mickens 0-0-0-0, Moranta 0-0-0-0, Moore 0-0-0-0, Lux 6-2-5-14, Epps 4-5-9-13, Ciavarella 1-0-0-2, Cinicola 4-0-0-9, Otto 1-0-0-3, Richardson 2-0-0-5, Johnson 0-0-0-0, Clark 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-7-14-46.
Marian 15 11 12 24 - 62
Jim Thorpe 10 9 13 14 - 46
Three-pointers: Marian - Barletta 2, Gottstein 2, Decker 1, O'Donnell 1. Jim Thorpe - Cinicola 1, Otto 1, Richardson 1.