HERSHEY, Pa. - Last season, Zane Martin played mainly on the undercard as Neumann-Goretti grabbed a sixth consecutive Catholic League title and a fourth Class AAA state title.
What a difference a year makes.
Friday night at the Giant Center, Martin was the star of stars. The junior guard finished with a team-high 26 points, and the Saints held off Archbishop Carroll, 69-67, to capture a fifth state title since 2010.
"Man, this is big for me," said Martin, who mostly played JV last year. "I'm surprised. I didn't know I could do it, but I worked hard all year and all summer. I'm happy for this victory."
Entering the contest, Quade Green and Lamarr "Fresh" Kimble had consistently led the Saints in scoring.
However, the Saints' ancillary pieces responded in the playoffs.
Vaughn Covington added 17 points and five assists against the Patriots after leading the Saints in scoring in the semifinals.
Green finished with 14 points, but was held to nine shots. Kimble had 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting, but drilled a key three-pointer for a 39-31 edge late in the third.
"This is big for Fresh," Martin said. "He told us this was his last game and let's go out with a bang. I'm glad to help him do that. I love, Fresh. I look up to him, too."
Martin, however, helped thwart thoughts of a comeback with eight fourth-quarter points.
"He's the X-factor," said head coach Carl Arrigale, smiling. "He always is. He's a good player, just sometimes what he thinks is playing well and what I think gets a little misunderstood."
"Man, Coach Carl had been on my [case] because I wasn't really focused like I should be," Martin said. "I play around a lot. I guess that's just my personality, but he got me where I am right now."
As an understudy last season, Martin, a converted wide receiver, learned from Kimble and then-senior Ja'Quan Newton (now at Miami).
"That got me way better," said Martin, who lives in Overbrook Park. "When I first came to Neumann, I wasn't a really big workout guy. I still played football first so I didn't work out as much as other guys. But, I took football off this year. When I focused on basketball, I realized I could actually be a D-1 athlete. I went hard all summer and proved myself today. If you ain't know me then, now you do."