Another title shot for Colts
It has been a little over a year ago since the Marian boys' basketball team experienced heartbreak in the District 11 Class A championship game.
Since that day, the Colts have had tunnel vision in hopes of getting back and winning this year's main event.
Come 7:30 this evening at Jim Thorpe, that opportunity to do so will become a reality.
According to Marian head coach Mick Stefanek, his seniors Cody Decker, Tommy Gottstein, Mike Lack, Matt Yaich, Drew Sherkness, Vini Fital and Brian O'Donnell don't want the same result as last year, especially with their final minutes of playing time in a Marian uniform rapidily approaching.
"This is a group of returning seniors who had to experience the disappointment of losing in the final last year," Stefanek said. "And, because of that, they were and are very determined to get back to it this year.
"They're focused and they understand that there won't be another chance because after this they're going onto a different level in life. Their high school careers are just about over"
The Colts want nothing more than to turn that silver medal, which came last year with a 62-39 setback to Williams Valley, into a shiny gold medallion.
Marian earned itself that opportunity thanks to a 36-24 District 11 quarterfinal win over Mahanoy Area and a 59-36 semifinal victory over Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg.
Rather than meeting up with Williams Valley for the second year in a row, Marian will instead run into a familiar non-conference opponent Pius X of Roseto.
The Royals knocked off Williams Valley, 53-47, in the other D-11 semifinal.
The Colts will be playing Pius X for the third time this year.
The Colts scored a hard-fought 54-53 double-overtime win over Pius X in a December home game and then followed with a 40-32 victory on the road back on Jan. 19.
"They did beat us twice," Pius X coach AJ Depue said. "It's a learning experience for us. We had only three losses on the season and two of them came to Marian. So, that's kind of a big motivating factor in and of itself, knowing that we're 21-3 at this point and Marian is two of our three losses."
Stefanek, who is happy with the way his Colts have played in their two District playoff games, expects the Royals to utilize the same game plan that has got them this far.
"We played two times during the season and people are going to hang their hat on the fact that we beat them both times, but quite frankly, both of those games could have went the other way," Stefanek said. "They're going to want to run up and down the court on us. They want an up-tempo game.
"I think they're more successful when they can get out on transition. We have been able to prevent them from doing that, which is one of the big reasons for our success the first two times we played them. When they're able to get out in transition and score points in transition, they're going to win a lot of games and they have."
One major setback the Royals will have to overcome is the fact that they will be without their best player Sean O'Neil. O'Neil, who led the Royals with 22 and 10 points in the two regular season games against Marian, has been dismissed from the team.
Since then, DePue believes his upperclassmen Scott Douglas, Dwayne McGee, David Hills and Zach Williams have dealt with adversity and have done a nice job of putting the team on their shoulders.
"Without him being around, a lot of people thought we would just be happy to get where we're at," Depue said. "We're not just happy to get here. We're determined and focused to meet our goals and the goal being to win the final."