LORETTO - David Maruca had seen this play out before, and it never turned out well.
With the clock winding to zero, Bishop Guilfoyle's Damon Rickens spun and lofted a high-arcing shot from the top of the circle, going for overtime and the Marauders' sixth 3-pointer of the second half. It wasn't unlike the one by C.J. Fulare that denied Bishop Carroll Catholic High School the District 6 Class A boys basketball championship last year or the floater by Jeff Hogan that lifted Northern Cambria over the Huskies in the finals two years ago.
Once it left Rickens' hand, all Maruca and the Huskies could do was hope.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Brandon?Martinazzi drives in for a shot against Bishop Guilfoyle defender Sam McCloskey.
"I was going, 'No. Not again. Please not again,'" Maruca said.
Maruca was able to recount that eternity of seconds with a smile. Rickens' shot bounced off the iron, and Bishop Carroll was able to celebrate its first district championship since this year's seniors were freshmen with a 51-48 nail-biter over Guilfoyle on Friday night at St. Francis University's DeGol Arena.
"After all the hard work the past three year, to come up short the last two and finally get it, it feels wonderful," said Maruca, one of six seniors on the Huskies.
It was extra sweet for the Huskies, who'll now take a 25-0 record and their state No. 3 ranking into the PIAA playoffs, which begin next Friday night.
"It's a good feeling right now," said Husky senior pivot Marcus Lee, who topped BC with 13 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. "Freshman year, I had an afro. Now I have a shaved head. Since then, we've put in a lot of work, and I think it shows tonight."
Guilfoyle, which also advances to interdistrict play, dropped to 19-6, with three of those losses coming to Carroll in the Huskies' three most competitive games of the year.
"We felt we could have won," BG senior guard Jamey Brumbaugh, who netted 11 points off the bench to equal Sam McCloskey for team scoring honors, said. "We know they're a good team, but it's tough to lose three games that were so close to your rivals. It's disappointing, but we still have a job to do."
Carroll had a 14-point lead heading into the last 2 minutes of the third quarter, but the Marauders erased it by hitting shots from deep while holding the Huskies to six points in the last 10 minutes.
"When they get up 14 on most teams in the second half, most teams go away. We don't go away," Guilfoyle coach Chris Drenning said. "We just dug ourselves too deep a hole. I don't know why we do that."
Brandon Chadbourn's put-back of his own missed free throw got Guilfoyle to within 47-37. Then Chadbourn, a question mark to play on Friday morning, made a 3-pointer that highlighted an 11-0 Marauder run to get BG within a bucket.
Mitchell Madonna, though, made a shot off a Maruca feed, and Maruca then went 2-for-2 at the foul line to get Carroll back up by five. A cutting Rickens' shot on a Chadbourn assist made the difference three points, but Carroll hung on from there.
Brandon Martinazzi finished with 11 points for the Huskies, but Guilfoyle actually did a good job defensively on him and Lee, holding both under their average. Instead, it was the players like Madonna and Maruca, typically role players who don't score a lot, who made the difference.
"What I admire [about Carroll] is they don't take a possession off," Drenning said. "It's different guys [stepping up] in key spots. Their other role guys are good. If you don't take Lee and Martinazzi away, they're going to score 50 between them and kill you. They're so good overall that you kind of have to pick your poison."
Averaging about five points per game each, Madonna scored nine, and Maruca had seven.
"I felt a lot more comfortable this time playing in the district championship than in previous years. We tried to go inside to Marcus Lee a little bit, and they started to double-team him. We brought the ball back out, and I just tried to drive the lane. I just tried to play my game," said Madonna, who also came up with a pair of steals. "We were hungry. We wanted to get back to this point and get this championship. Athletically, it's the lowest point of my life to lose two years in a row in the championship, both at the buzzer."
Lee came out like he had no intention of being denied, either. He had a three-point play a minute into the game to give BC a lead it never relinquished. The 6-foot-6 senior had 11 points and three rebounds in the first quarter alone. Carroll led 15-11 through the first period and 30-22 when Scott Lucas scored on an offensive rebound to end the first half.
"I just wanted to set the tone. I wanted to be the leader and kind of get us in the flow of things," Lee said.
Last year's loss seemed to spur on the Huskies come PIAA playoff time, as they won two games before taking WPIAL power Lincoln Park down to the wire. Drenning is hoping his team can follow that example.
"When you come up short, it hurts," Drenning said. "But they used it as motivation last year, and we're hoping to do the same thing."
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (48): Fulare 2 1-2 6, McCloskey 3 3-4 11, Rickens 3 0-1 7, Chadbourn 3 4-5 11, Wolf 1 0-0 2, Little 0 0-0 0, Brumbaugh 3 3-3 11, Kasun 0 0-0 0. Totals - 15 11-15 48.
BISHOP CARROLL (51): Maruca 1 5-6 7, Madonna 4 1-2 9, Lucas 3 0-0 6, Martinazzi 5 0-0 11, Lee 6 1-2 13, Swatsworth 1 0-0 3, Suckinos 0 0-0 0, Burk 1 0-0 2. Totals - 21 7-10 51.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle11 11 15 11-48
Bishop Carroll15 15 17 4 -51
3-point goals: Bishop Guilfoyle 7 (Brumbaugh 2, Rickens, Fulare, McCloskey 2, Chadbourn); Bishop Carroll 2 (Martinazzi, Swatsworth).
Records: Bishop Guilfoyle (19-6); Bishop Carroll (25-0).
Officials: Ray Wotkowski, Dave Reimer, Denny Gramling.