Marian's defense dominates again
Steve Shinko/special to the TIMES NEWS Marian's Gabby Green tries to get past Jill Dove of Shenandoah Valley.
POTTSVILLE Another championship … another dominating defensive performance.
During Paul Brutto's 23 years as Marian's head coach, there has been one constant thread that has sewn the championship teams together defense.
Saturday afternoon at Martz Hall, the 2013-14 edition of the Fillies joined the long list of teams that have won league, district or state championships under Brutto's guidance.
And once again, Marian did it with a defensive performance that was championship worthy.
"Marian has a great defensive tradition," said senior point guard Gabby Green. "You know that before you come here. Then once you put on the Fillie uniform, you feel an obligation to continue that tradition.
"Coach Brutto constantly talks about how important defense is. Our goal as a team is to hold the opponent below 30 points. If you can do that, it's pretty hard to lose."
The Fillies achieved that goal with plenty of room to spare, routing Shenandoah, 47-22, for the District 11 Class A championship.
Among the defensive highlights for Marian on Saturday were:
* Holding the Lady Devils to their lowest point total of the season.
* Limiting Abigail Snitzer (15.8 ppg.) and Kristina Nieddu (11.6 ppg.), Shenandoah's leading scorers, to five and four points respectively.
* Forcing Lady Devil field goal dryspells of 5:28, 8:28 and 13:22 during the game.
* Allowing just two field goals the entire second half.
One thing Brutto's teams have proven during his tenure is that there is more than one way to dominate on the defensive end.
With four guards in the starting lineup and a deep bench, this team has relied on a fullcourt press more than some past Marian teams.
"You try to take advantage of your team's strengths," said Brutto. "This year's team doesn't have a lot of size, but we are very athletic and fast, so that's what we tried to build around.
"We're always going to stress defense. This year, that defense just happens to rely more on fullcourt pressure than some past teams."
Against Shenandoah, Marian's pressure might have even been turned up a notch more than normal.
"Our game plan coming in was to put the pressure on them and keep the pace as fast as possible, " said Lindsey Nemeth, another Fillie senior. "We wanted to fly around and take advantage of our speed and depth to wear them down."
The plan worked to perfection as the Lady Devils struggled immensely to break the Fillie press, and even when they did, they found it difficult to get off a shot.
That's reflected in the game's statistics as Shenandoah finished with more turnovers (26) than field goals attempts (24)
"Marian makes it so difficult to run your offense," said SV coach Chris Conroy. "Their press makes you work so hard to just get the ball over midcourt, and then when you do, their halfcourt man-to-man defense is among the toughest around."
That type of reputation is something that Marian players enjoy.
"That's what Marian Fillies basketball is all about," said senior Emily Sofranko. "You know about the defensive tradition and you know that if you don't play defense, you don't play.
"But that's what we love. We take a lot of pride in our defense."
That pride has made the Fillies the top defensive team in the Schuylkill League and the TIMES NEWS area this season it has also made them champions.
And because they are, that common thread that winds through the Marian program can now be used to sew another banner.