It wasn’t just one player that spurred the Bishop Carroll Huskies’ run to a 28-1 record and a trip to the PIAA boys’ Class A semifinals. While a different player seemingly stepped up in the biggest moments on a nightly basis, the Huskies’ most consistent performer through their 29 games was Brandon Martinazzi.
Along the way during Bishop Carroll’s march through the regular season and playoffs, the 5-foot-10 guard eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career against Cambria Heights on Jan. 29 and helped the Huskies capture the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference and District 6-A crowns.
The sum of all parts from Martinazzi’s contribution to the Huskies’ memorable run has led to his being named as The Tribune-Democrat’s boys Player of the Year.
“He made out team better and our players made him better,” Bishop Carroll coach Cosie Aliquo said of Martinazzi. “When you have Marcus (Lee), David (Maruca), Scotty (Lucas) and Mitch (Madonna) out there with him, it was hard to guard only one. When they were all out there at once that really benefitted us.”
Martinazzi, who was voted onto the the Pennsylvania Sports Writers’ Class A all-state second team, averaged 20.5 points per game for the Huskies as they made their run to the state semifinals.
Statistics brought notice to Martinazzi’s game. It was Martinazzi’s work ethic that set him apart according to his coach.
“His desire is what separates him,” Aliquo said. “He was willing to get better willing to work hard. He brings it to practice and he knows I’ll get on him if he doesn’t.”
Rounding out the boys Fab Five squad are Martinazzi’s Bishop Carroll teammate, Marcus Lee, Bishop McCort’s Nemo Trexler, Conemaugh Valley’s Blake Furman and Penn Cambria’s Chad Tsikalas.
Other players considered for the squad included Matt Shaffer and Kyle Flick of Richland, Jake Snyder of Berlin Brothersvalley, Ryan Platt of Shanksville-Stonycreek, Jeff Callihan of Conemaugh Township, Nash Walker of Shade and Tanner Ambrisco of Central Cambria.
n Furman, a 6-2 guard/forward for Conemaugh Valley, was held under 10 points just one occasion – the Blue Jays’ season-opening loss to Bishop Carroll.
After that, Furman was much harder to contain, scoring fewer than 20 points only three more times during the season and going off for 54 points against Turkeyfoot Valley on Dec. 13.
“He was a leader for the team,” Conemaugh Valley coach Brandon Studer said. “I think that he kind of understood his role coming into the season. Himself, his teammates knew that Blake did well that the team was going to do well.”
Furman also averaged 11.5 rebounds per game – with back-to-back 21-rebound games on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30 – for the Blue Jays as they finished 9-12. Furman played in the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase and was part of the Altoona Mirror Classic.
Studer, a prolific scorer during his own days at Conemaugh Valley, was quick to recognize what Furman brought to the team aside from an active scoresheet.
“He’s got a tremendous work-ethic,” Studer said. “He was the first guy in the gym every day and the last guy to leave. More times than not, I was kicking him out of the gym. He wanted to stay and work out after practice or shoot around. I think that’s what made him the player that he was.”
n Lee, at 6-6 senior center for Bishop Carroll, provided a post presence for the Huskies that few teams in the region could neutralize. While not the Huskies’ primary scorer on most nights, his 16 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game were a vital statistical element behind the trip to the state semifinals.
“He’s as special as they come,” Aliquo said. “We had him for four years and he was a captain for three years.”
Lee, who was named third-team all-state in Class A by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers, was named most valuable player of the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase, and also represented Bishop Carroll in the Mirror Classic.
It was Lee’s growth into one of the Huskies’ most consistent leaders that impressed Aliquo.
“Unreal, when he first came up, I think he was a little shy about it,” Aliquo said. “He knew when he was the captain that he had to step up and he brought it.”
n Trexler, a 6-5 forward at Bishop McCort, led the Crimson Crushers in scoring with 19.7 points per game and pulled down 9.3 rebounds on his was to second-team all-state honors in Class AA while grabbing a second nod on The Tribune-Democrat’s Fab Five.
While he struggled to get buckets early in the season, he was vital to Bishop McCort’s late surge to taking Section 2 of the Laurel Highlands, averaging 24.9 points per game in his squad’s last 11 regular-season games. Trexler’s season high of 36 points came in one of the Crimson Crushers’ most important Section 2 wins – a 63-61 overtime win over eventual District 6-AA champion Richland.
“I think it took him a little while to find his place,” Bishop McCort coach Jerry Murphy said. “He was sort of the guy, when in years past there were one or two other people who were the guys with him. It took him a little bit to figure out what we needed him to do. He obviously hit some big shots, got some big rebounds for us.”
Trexler, who was selected to play in the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase and the Mirror Classic, was also demon on the glass, pulling down 10 or more rebounds in 11 games this season. He also had two four-block games against Westmont Hilltop on Jan. 15 and Bishop Guilfoyle on Feb. 8.
“I’m hoping that somebody, somewhere realizes that he does have a talent and that we can see him take that to the next level,” Murphy said.
n Tsikalas, a 6-3 guard/forward at Penn Cambria, averaged a double double to highlight the Panthers’ season. Tsikalas scored 14.2 points per game and grabbed 10.8 boards per game while also topping Penn Cambria in assists, steals and blocks per game.
“He was just consistent,” Penn Cambria coach Jim Ronan said. “Every facet of the game, Chad did it well. Haven’t quite had the player that put up the numbers in those categories that well. He was our best passer, our best foul shooter, our leading scorer, leading rebounder, leading blocker. Even though we had a rough year, Chad was definitely consistent.”
Tsikalas, who played in the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase, took a much larger role in helping guide the Panthers on the floor after the departure of key seniors from a season ago.
“We had those seniors from last year that played since they were freshmen,” Ronan said. “So there wasn’t a whole lot of time, but he was my first guy off the bench last year. Chad worked his butt off in the offseason. He went to Dave Roman, went to open gyms. He made himself better because he knew it was his one shot to showcase himself and he wanted to take advantage of it.”
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.