Colts, Millville in 'A' sequel
The sequel to last year's Marian-Millville match-up in the PIAA State playoffs will air Friday night at 7:30 at Martz Hall in Pottsville.
For the second year in a row, the Colts and Quakers will meet in the opening round of the PIAA Class A state playoffs.
But this time around, the tables have been turned.
"The teams are the same, but the plot is different," Marian coach Mick Stefanek said. "Fair or unfair, the expectations also have changed as far as who would be considered the better of the two teams.
"Right or wrong, I would think that role would fall on us."
A year ago, Millville entered the contest undefeated at 25-0, was ranked seventh in Class A in the state, and fresh off a District 4 championship. Marian, on the other hand, was 16-9 overall and was blown out by Williams Valley in the District 11 championship game.
Although Millville (21-4) and Marian (22-5) enter this year's game with almost identical records, Millville coach Rick Thomas says that's a little deceiving.
"It's a total role reversal this year," said Thomas. "This is their year to make some noise. Marian is a darn good basketball team."
Last year, the leading roles for the Quakers were played by seniors Matt Long, Nate Birth and Josh Masteller, who helped their team to a 45-40 victory over the Colts.
This year, it's the Colts who may have the advantage.
Starters Matt Yaich, Drew Sherkness, Cody Decker and Tommy Gottstein are glad to be back in the state playoffs in their final year, and according to Stefanek, are determined not to let a very memorable senior season end the same way it did as underclassmen.
Those four players, along with classmates Brian O'Donnell, Vini Fital and Mike Lack, give the Colts tremendous veteran leadership. It was that senior experience that helped Marian produce three double-figure victories during their run to a District 11 championship.
"This is a group that is determined to do the best they can," Stefanek said. "They want to continue playing as long as they can.
"I know last year's tough loss to Millville up at Williamsport High School is in their minds. I believe we're playing our best basketball and if we continue to play the way we are, we will have a shot at moving on in the state playoffs."
While Long, Birth and Masteller may have graduated, senior Sam Plocinski and junior Wes Lyons return from last year's Quakers' starting lineup.
Plocinski handles the point guard responsibilities while the 6-foot, 5-inch Lyons is a force inside.
"Wes Lyons is a stud as a basketball player," Stefanek stressed. "He can post you up. He can take you outside. He can handle the ball in the halfcourt. He can handle the ball to break presses. He's their everything guy.
"Sure we know what he does and what he does for the team, but the guys around him do a good job of knowing their roles and compliment him on both the offensive and defensive end."
Thomas is concerned with the Colts' overall height and their inside game as well. But the eighth-year Quakers' coach has a bit of a counter attack.
"I'd like to get out and run on them," Thomas said. "Traditionally, Marian is a slow, methodical type team. They want to slow the game down and keep the score low. We're the exact opposite.
"I want to get a shot off in 10 seconds while they're more patient than we are. We're contrasting styles."
Stefanek is aware of Millville's preference for an uptempo pace, but thinks his team will be able to slow them down.
"I think this game plays into our district championship game in the fact that Pius X was a team that wanted to get out and try to score as many points as they could in transition," Stefanek said. "We did a pretty good job in limiting that.
"But if they do get out and score a lot in transition, we're looking forward to a long night and our season will come to an end quickly."