Martinazzi’s numbers, vision help win honor

It was the first time Brandon Martinazzi launched that 20-footer from the corner with the game on the line, but it was a shot he’d been taking all his life.

People just didn’t get to see it until now.

“I took it thousands of times,” Martinazzi said. “This past summer, I’d be practicing, working out, and I just kept having this like vision that I make this shot and we’re going to the state final or the Western final. I must have played it through my head about two billion times, just practicing on the court. And then it actually happened.”

That shot against North Catholic didn’t win the game – it was ruled that Martinazzi’s foot was on the line, so it just forced overtime, where his Huskies finally pulled it out and punch their ticket into the state semifinals – but that was one of the few ways in which the Bishop Carroll Catholic junior guard didn’t live the dream this season.

Martinazzi led Carroll in scoring as the Huskies went 28-1. In recognition, Martinazzi has been voted the Altoona Mirror 2013-14 Boys Basketball Player of the Year by the newspaper’s staff and correspondents and area coaches.

Martinazzi edged Tyrone sharpshooter Brandon Gripp in one of the closest votes in the 31-year history of the team. Also comprising the first team are Carroll’s Marcus Lee, Altoona big man Manny Span and Bishop Guilfoyle’s Sam McCloskey. Martinazzi and McCloskey, also a junior, are the only underclassmen on the first team.

Bishop Carroll’s Cosie Aliquo was voted Coach of the Year.

Martinazzi, who was a Mirror first-team pick and made third-team all-state in 2013, topped the Huskies by averaging 20.1 points per game this season. He put up some phenomenal shooting numbers for a 5-foot-10 guard, converting just under 60 percent from the field and nearly half of his 3-pointers while sinking 58 of 67 free throws.

His two biggest scoring games of the campaign came in the PIAA playoffs, when he followed up a 27-point outburst against Clarion-Limestone with a 28-point explosion against Monessen. North Catholic held him to 22, but he made the big shot to knot the score at the end of regulation of that contest.

Although Martinazzi was coming off a big year and definitely had the capability of carrying a team offensively, Aliquo said he didn’t ask him to do that.

“I wasn’t putting any more pressure on him to do what he could do. We knew that he could score. We just asked him to come and work hard, and it absolutely paid off,” Aliquo said. “It doesn’t matter what he does, he wants to be the best that he can be. One thing he’s finding out is teams are starting to guard him tighter. He’s gotten better at giving up the basketball and getting it back. He’s starting to get open more.”

Martinazzi’s highly skilled game obviously is the work of a lot of practice and attention to detail. He inherited his love of the sport from his father, Dan, to a point that it by far surpassed the other sports he grew up playing, like baseball and football.

Martinazzi became a 1,000-point scorer in the middle of the season, but he hasn’t let the notoriety go to his head.

“Making all-state as a sophomore was really an honor. I think a lot of time stuff like that can really weigh you down, thinking ‘I’m a junior, I’m a senior, I’m expected to make it two more years in a row,'” Martinazzi said. “I just try to be self-motivated and use what God’s given me to be the best I can be.

“It wasn’t like I had to put up these numbers. I was blessed to be on this team.”

Martinazzi was helped by the strong leadership of three senior starters this year at Carroll. Next year, he expects to have to do more and has a chance to join Doug West, Joe Brumbaugh, Brian Rehm and A.J. Nastasi as the only boys to repeat as Mirror player of the year.

This is the second year in a row Aliquo has been voted coach of the year. He won going away this time around, with Central’s Reggie Nevins and Altoona’s Paul Hasson the next closest contenders.