Mary Martin may not have been the leading scorer or rebounder, but Honesdale's fearless senior delivered two of the biggest plays of her hoops career Saturday afternoon.
With time winding down in the 2012-13 District Two championship game, Martin outmuscled two Scranton Prep players for a crucial rebound. Moments later, she drained a free throw which sent Red & Black fans into a frenzy.
That one foul shot sealed the deal on Honesdale's second straight Class AAA title, a 47-43 victory that catapults the Lady Hornets to another appearance in the PIAA state tournament.
"I never doubted that we were going to win today ... not even for one second," a smiling Martin told TWI Sports moments after the final buzzer. "It was just a matter of how much we'd win by. Our fans were awesome and there was no way we were going to let them down."
Coach Tracy Ludwig was quick to agree.
"We love our fans!" she exclaimed, a gleaming gold medal around her neck.
"These girls just feed off that energy. I'm so proud of them. We came out and played with such heart and passion, there was just no way we were going to lose."
With this emotional win, Honesdale improved its overall record to a dazzling 23-3. The Lady Hornets will now savor this victory for a few days, but then begin preparing in earnest for another trip to states.
"Last year, we were just happy to be there," Martin said. "We wanted to win, but it was all really new to us. This time, we're going to do some damage."
Sophomore super-sub Taylor Parenti seconded that opinion.
Parenti has been playing an ever-growing role on this team and she's champing at the bit to play in the state tourney.
Page 2 of 4 - "I'm so excited to be part of this," Taylor said. "We're going to work really hard this week. Our goal is to win and get farther than last year."
The Lady Hornets' title quest will tip-off Saturday, March 9 as part of a PIAA tripleheader at Marywood University. Honesdale is the final game of that hoops trifecta, facing off against Danville at 7 p.m.
On the Attack
Katie Miller turned in another stellar offensive performance Saturday at Carbondale Area.
While thousands of fans looked on, Honesdale's leading scorer began shredding a Prep defense designed to stop her.
Miller opened the game with a steal and lay-up.
Less than a minute later, Katie stepped back behind the arc and buried a trey. She continued her assault from all angles, even banking home a 3-ball from the top of the key.
Thanks in large part to Miller's barrage, the Classics were suddenly staring at a 15-5 deficit before finally getting their own offense untracked.
Tricia Byrne brought the fans to their feet by swishing a halfcourt shot at the first quarter buzzer.
Prep's fiery guard would prove a thorn in Honesdale's side all day and finish up with a game-high 21 points.
Miller and Natasha Hessling both ran into foul trouble early in the second, but Parenti checked into the line-up and once again provided a spark.
Taylor was dubbed a "defensive specialist" at the start of the season, but she's expanded her repertoire the past two games. Against Prep, Parenti rattled the rims for eight second period points and earned high marks from her mentor.
"I have a lot of confidence in her," Coach Ludwig said. "She goes up against Kacie (Johannes) all the time in practice and more than holds her own. Taylor is really becoming a good all-round player."
Page 3 of 4 - Johannes was forced to sit out the title tilt due to lingering concussion symptoms, but Parenti stepped in admirably.
"After Kacie got hurt, I knew I'd have to work really hard and step it up to try and fill her spot," Taylor said. "Prep is a very good team, but we've been playing against them forever so we just went out there and did our jobs."
Back & Forth
Momentum clearly swung in Prep's favor after Byrne's halfcourt prayer was answered.
In fact, the Classics embarked upon an 11-2 run and even took a 29-27 lead at intermission. However, the Lady Hornets cranked up their defensive pressure after the break and slowly began taking control.
"We tweaked things a little bit at halftime and that seemed to help," Coach Ludwig said. "Nothing drastic, just a couple of adjustments."
As it turned out, those adjustments had a profound impact on the game. The Lady Hornets thoroughly befuddled one of the area's highest scoring offenses, limiting the Classics to only 14 points in the entire second half.
Miller, Martin and Morgan Birmelin were at the heart of a suffocating defense that forced 18 Prep turnovers.
Katie battled through her foul trouble and wound up with a team-best 15 points. Mary played her usual physical brand of hoops at both ends, tallying nine points and pulling down nine rebounds.
Morgan shrugged off a slow start, scoring seven of her nine in the second half.
Hessling also made her presence felt in the paint with five points and seven boards.
On to States
Honesdale surged back ahead late in the third quarter and nursed that lead right to the final buzzer.
Page 4 of 4 - Martin drained several clutch free throws down the stretch, inching ever closer to that magical 1,000-point total for her varsity career.
Mary's huge rebound and final foul shot put Prep away for good, setting off pandemonium in the Lady Hornet student section.
"This has been an amazing season," she said.
"We've been working hard since June. We're really more like a family than anything else. Every single girl on this team contributes something and that's why we're here."
Score by Quarters...
HON (23-3) 15 12 11 9 - 47
SP (24-2) 10 19 9 6 - 43