Colts will meet a familiar foe
Ron Gower/times news Marian coach John Patton makes a comment to his bench.
It is not uncommon for basketball teams to play against each other two or three times throughout the course of a season.
If two teams are in the same conference or division, they will usually play each other twice. Throw in a tournament or playoff match-up somewhere along the line and three meetings is a definite possibility.
But the Marian and Mahanoy Area boys' basketball teams, are taking familiarity to extremes.
Having already met in the Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament championship game, and twice during the regular season as members of the Schuylkill League's Division 3, Marian and Mahanoy Area will square off for a fourth time in 2010-11 when the two teams compete for the District 11 Class A championship Friday at 7 p.m. at Martz Hall.
Although the Colts have won all three meetings so far this year and are the defending district champs, head coach John Patton doesn't think that will make it any easier.
"We both pretty much know what the other is going to try to do," said the first-year coach. "That means both teams will be forced to execute. Whichever team executes its game plan the best will probably win.
"At the same time, yeah it is going to be tough, but Marian and Mahanoy Area have been playing for years. We both know what's at stake in this one and I expect it to be another battle."
The Golden Bears got to their first championship game since 2005 (AA) by knocking off Tri-Valley 40-29 on Tuesday. Mike Gaval and Josh Kimmel led the way with 13 and 10 points respectively.
Gaval, along with James Wagner and Neal Goodman are Mahanoy's go-to players. The trio does most of their damage from behind the arc. Gaval has made over 40 three-pointers this year, while Wagner and Goodman have each hit over 30. As a team, the Golden Bears have connected on an astonishing 154 triples.
In its three meetings with Marian, Mahanoy has knocked down 15 threes. Wagner has made six, while Gaval has made four and Goodman has made two.
"They are all very good shooters," said Patton. "They are definitely not shy about putting it up. They run their sets well and are able to get open looks. Our job will be limiting those open looks and trying to at least get a hand in the shooter's face."
The Golden Bears don't like to give up open looks at their end of the court either. According to Patton, the Bears run a solid man-to-man defense and it shows in the numbers. Mahanoy is allowing just over 34 points-per-game and has held ten opponents to under 30 points.
Still, Marian possesses a player that can negate any defense and take over a game at any time. He is senior point guard Chris Barletta. Barletta is averaging 21 points-per-game (27, 24, 12) in his three meetings with Mahanoy. He is closing in on 1,000 career points (903). Barletta gives his team a sense of comfort in knowing that he is running their offense.
"He knows where everyone is going to be," said Patton. "And the other kids know that too. It makes it comfortable for everyone. Chris will get the others involved and then be aggressive when he has to be. The others know he will make the right decision and do whatever is best for the team."
Mahanoy's head coach, Mickey Holland, is recovering from a recent heart attack and was back on the bench for the first time on Tuesday. Though they will be opponents on Friday, Patton is glad to see Holland back.
"I'm glad to see Mickey back," said Patton. "He is a good friend and a good guy and he is good for the game. I will be happy to see him."
Friday will be Marian's third straight district championship appearance. The Colts crushed Pius X last year, 56-39. The year before that they were on the other side of a lopsided score, losing to Williams Valley 62-39.