EBENSBURG - The much-hyped confrontation between two District 6 diocesan heavyweights certainly didn't disappoint Friday night.
Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic and Bishop Carroll Catholic met up in last March's District 6-A boys championship game, won by Guilfoyle.
And anybody on hand at Bishop Carroll's raucous, packed gymnasium Friday to see the Huskies squeak out a 52-45 Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, Section I overtime victory would be inclined to bet on a rematch in this March's District 6-A title game.
Undefeated Carroll (12-0 overall, 5-0 in Section I) built a 14-2 lead after one quarter, only to watch BG (9-2, 4-1) in its typical hard-nosed, inspired fashion, battle back to wipe out a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, tie the game 41-41 after four quarters, and force overtime.
Carroll then scored the 4-minute overtime period's first seven points en route to carrying the extra session, 11-4, and securing the victory.
"Amazing game, a lot of fun,'' said Carroll junior guard Brandon Martinazzi, who tied BG senior Damon Rickens for game-scoring honors with 18 points. "We played well throughout the game, but we didn't finish [regulation] like we wanted to. We needed to get the win, and we really worked hard in the overtime.''
Carroll came out blazing in the extra session, taking the lead for good, 42-41 on one of two free three throws by senior David Maruca.
After junior Scott Lucas came up with a steal, Martinazzi drained a big field goal from the top of the circle to give Carroll a 44-41 lead with 2:25 left.
It was a key sequence, according to Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo.
"BG is one of the best teams in the area, if not the best,'' he said. "At the end of regulation, our guys came off the floor and looked like they were beat. But they came out and really played well in the overtime. We practice defense every day, and first we made the foul shot there, then [BG] turned it over and [Martinazzi] hits that shot and we're up 3.''
Carroll kept the ball rolling when Maruca grabbed a rebound, and tossed a nice outlet pass down the court to senior guard Mitchell Madonna, who drove in for a layup to put the Huskies in front, 46-41.
Marcus Lee, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, was fouled moments later, and hit two free throws for the 48-41 Carroll lead with 1:39 left.
Two pairs of free throws by Maruca and Martinazzi for Carroll in the last 90 seconds offset buckets by Rickens and senior C.J. Fulare for BG.
"People here got their money's worth tonight,'' BG coach Chris Drenning said. "We didn't start very well, and I think some of that can be attributed to a case of nerves. Our kids have been in some close games, but they haven't been used to playing in an atmosphere quite like this. Our kids played very, very hard tonight. This game was great for our team, and for Cosie's, too.''
BG, trailing for the entire game, showed tremendous heart in battling back from a 39-27 fourth-quarter deficit. Three-pointers by Fulare, Rickens and junior guard Sam McCloskey brought the Marauders to within 41-36 with 1:15 remaining, and another 3-ball by Rickens following an Owen Wolf steal made it 41-39 with 35 seconds left.
After a missed Carroll free throw, Wolf grabbed the rebound and Fulare was fouled with six seconds left. Fulare missed the free throw, but junior forward Brandon Chadbourn snaked in for the rebound, and deposited the tying bucket with less than three seconds left to tie the score, 41-41 and force overtime.
"We didn't come here to lose,'' Drenning said of the Marauders' comeback, which was triggered by pressure defense. "We trapped and really went after them. Offensively, we went north to south better and attacked the rim better in the second half.''
Falling behind, 14-2 early was a killer, though, for the Marauders.
"We lost the game there,'' Drenning said. "You can't dig yourself that kind of a hole.''
BG, which also got 12 points from Chadbourn and 10 from Fulare, and Carroll, which got 11 points and six rebounds from Lee, have another regular-season meeting scheduled for Feb. 10 at BG. Then it's on to the postseason.
"We hope to see them a few more times,'' Aliquo said. "Maybe in the district final, maybe even in the state final.''
Game notes: Chadbourn had eight rebounds for BG, which travels to Westmont Hilltop Monday night ... Carroll travels to Somerset the same night ... Carroll won the junior varsity game, 60-55 behind Raymond Watt's 21 points. D.J. Kitt led BG with 20.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (45): Fulare 4 0-1 10, Rickens 7 0-0 18, McCloskey 2 0-0 5, Chadbourn 6 0-2 12, Wolf 0 0-0 0, Brumbaugh 0 0-0 0, Little 0 0-2 0, Fiore 0 0-0 0, Gormley 0 0-0 0. Totals - 19 0-5 45
BISHOP CARROLL (52): Madonna 3 0-0 6, Maruca 1 2-4 4, Lucas 3 2-2 8, Lee 4 3-4 11, Martinazzi 8 2-2 18, Sukinos 2 0-0 5, Swatsworth 0 0-0 0, Buck 0 0-0 0. Totals - 21 9-12 52.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle2 12 11 16 4 - 45
Bishop Carroll14 9 12 6 11 - 52
3-point goals: Bishop Guilfoyle 7 (Rickens 4, Fulare 2, McCloskey); Bishop Carroll 1 (Sukinos).
Records: Bishop Guilfoyle (9-2 overall, 4-1 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, Section I); Bishop Carroll (12-0 overall, 5-0 in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, Section I).
JV: Bishop Carroll, 60-58. High scorers-Kitt, BG, 20; Watt, BC, 21.