JOHNSTOWN - It's pretty clear that if Bishop Carroll is somehow to be kept from the District 6 Class A championship game, one of two things will have to happen: Either the Huskies are going to have an off night, or their opponent is going to have to play nearly a perfect game.
Neither was in the cards on Thursday night at the Richland High School Sports Center.
Carroll, the third-ranked Class A team in the state, got 40 points from the backcourt tandem of Brandon Martinazzi and Scott Lucas, 13 more from center Marcus Lee and outscored Saltsburg 70-28 for the top-seeded Huskies' 23rd win in as many starts this season.
Carroll next will meet fourth-seeded Juniata Valley in a semifinal game next week. With the win, Carroll ensured itself of at least two more games.
"We didn't practice for two days, so I knew we were going to be a little bit sluggish," Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo said. "For the guys still to hold them to 28 points is pretty good. But we've got to work on some stuff on the offensive end."
Carroll did so much in other areas it had a big lead before even turning to some of its most reliable weapons. Lee only had two points in the first quarter. Then, the 6-foot-6 senior made a 3-pointer in the second quarter before Husky deep-shooting specialist Martinazzi finally connected on a pair from the arc that made it a 37-13 lead with a 2:05 left to go in the first half.
When Nik Suckinos tipped in a shot at the end of the second quarter, Carroll's lead was 30. From there, it was only a matter of seeing when BC might bring the running clock into play - that happened on Lucas' baseline drive for a layup off Lee's feed with 5:21 left in the game. Aliquo then cleared the bench.
"I felt pretty good. It's good to come out and get the win, and, especially, to continue the win streak," said Martinazzi, who scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting. "We don't want to get that loss, and we want to keep getting better."
Saltsburg coach Don Stitt, son of the longtime girls basketball coach at the school, didn't see a whole lot of room for the Huskies to improve after they ended the Trojans' year at 11-13.
"The whole slogan was 'Why not us?' We came in with an underdog mentality. We told the kids we have nothing to lose," Stitt said. "That's a great basketball team, hands down. Their not just one of the best teams in the district, they're one of the best teams in the state. They play like a team. They hustle. My kids never gave up."
Carroll scored the first six points and never looked back. From the 1:20 mark of the first quarter, the game never was closer than five points.
The Huskies were patient against Saltsburg's zone defense early but got things going with defense, coming up with 15 steals and forcing 26 Trojan turnovers by game's end.
"We generate our best offense off our defense, so, when we create a lot of havoc on our press, they can't set up our offense, we get easy steals and baskets on the other end," Lucas said.
Lucas, the only new starter from a team that reached the PIAA quarterfinals last year, scored eight of his 16 points in the first quarter. Martinazzi and Lee then teamed for 16 in the second.
Against an opponent with a losing record that had three freshmen on the floor at some points and having missed a couple of practices because of winter cancellations, it would have been reasonable for Carroll not to play sharp. But the Huskies still were.
"We keep the same mindset every game: that it could be our last," Lucas said. "We want to prove we're the best. We want to show teams that's our style, non-stop effort."
One also could think the undefeated record might be weighing on the Huskies, but Martinazzi said not so.
"I would say it's more of an incentive," Martinazzi said. "The last two years we've lost the district title. This year, we don't want to lose, and we want to go as far as we can in the state playoffs. I would say there's no pressure. We just want to work hard and see what we can do."
SALTSBURG (28): Satler 2 0-0 4, Porter 0 0-0 0, Sinclair 3 0-0 6, Feiling 0 0-2 0, Richards 3 2-3 8, Plowman 2 1-2 6, Yard 1 0-0 2, Sphon 0 0-0 0, Shirley 1 0-0 0, Booth 0 0-0 0, Zimmerman 0 0-2 0, Jesko 0 0-0 0. Totals - 12 3-9 28.
BISHOP CARROLL (70): Madonna 1 0-0 2, Maruca 1 2-5 4, Lucas 6 2-3 16, Martinazzi 9 3-5 24, Lee 5 2-4 13, Swatsworth 1 0-0 2, Suckinos 3 2-6 9, Woo 0 0-0 0, Burk 0 0-0 0, Watt 0 0-0 0, Ratchford 0 0-0 0, Weinzierl 0 0-0 0, Wyland 0 0-0 0, Dunchack 0 0-0 0. Totals - 26 11-23 70.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Saltsburg10 5 9 4-28
Bishop Carroll17 28 16 9-70
3-point goals: Saltsburg 1 (Plowman); Bishop Carroll 7 (Lucas 2, Lee, Martinazzi 3, Suckinos).
Team records: Saltsburg (11-13); Bishop Carroll (23-0).
Officials: Clark Adelman, Keith Redfoot, Jack McDougal.