Three TIMES NEWS area teams tipped off their seasons last night in the Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament, but only one started their year off on a winning note. Marian rallied from a one-point halftime deficit to defeat Panther Valley 55-42, while Mahanoy Area raced out to a 14-point third quarter lead, en route to a 52-39 victory over Jim Thorpe.

With the wins, the Colts and Golden Bears will lock up later tonight (7:30 p.m.) for the Tournament Championship, while Panther Valley and Jim Thorpe will meet in the consolation game at 6 p.m.

Mahanoy Area-Jim Thorpe

For Jim Thorpe head coach Brian Carroll, the main question entering this season was how he was going to replace three starters that accounted for 70-percent of his team's scoring last year.

The answer may take time and patience.

In last night's opening game, the Olympians committed 12 first-half turnovers, as Mahanoy Area took advantage by racing out to a 28-16 halftime lead.

As the Olympians, who scored just 39 points, were searching for offense (making just five of their first 19 shots), Mahanoy Area wasted no time showcasing theirs. The Golden Bears only made 11 field goals before the break, but five of them were three-pointers (two each from Mike Gaval and Steve Oertner).

With Mahanoy Area clinging to a 18-16 lead, Oertner (who came in off the bench) buried two treys and scored eight straight points in the second quarter as the Golden Bears outscored the Olympians 10-0 over the final three and a half minutes.

"The last few minutes before the half was a killer," stated Carroll. "We knew going in that they were going to play the typical Coach Holland style of basketball and there's nothing fancy about it. We just weren't able to execute our offense."

Jim Thorpe played better defensively in the second half, as Mahanoy Area shot just 2-of-15 from the floor in the third quarter.

The Olympians were also able to find some offense from Darius Clark, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Clark scored eight straight points in the fourth quarter to bring the Olympians within 42-36 with 2:52 remaining the game. However, while Mahanoy converted just 8-of-16 free throws down the stretch, Jim Thorpe was held scoreless as the Bears went on a 10-point run to close things out.

"Darius played the second half like we expected him to play the whole game," added Carroll. "He's going to be one of our big guys that we rely on as the season goes on and he did a nice job of bringing us back in the game."

Dean DeBonifazio was Jim Thorpe's leading scorer with 15 points.

Marian-Panther Valley

Last night, Marian's John Patton got his first career head coaching victory. Tonight, he gets to play for his first ever championship.

With the help of senior point guard Chris Barletta, the Colts outscored Panther Valley 33-19 in the second half and erased a one-point halftime deficit (23-22).

While Barletta single-handedly staked the Colts to a 7-0 lead just two and a half minutes into the game, it was his performance in the second half that made the difference.

Barletta scored 19 of his game-high 30 points in the second half and led a hot-shooting Marian squad that converted on 12-of- 17 field goals (in a 12 minute span), en route to a 51-38 lead with 3:50 remaining in the game.

"At one point in the second half, one of my assistants turned to me and said 'he's taking over,' which he did," lauded Patton. "Offensively and defensively, he got us in a rhythm. Chris penetrated the zone, found some holes and finished at the end."

The Panthers, which shot 17-for-60 from the floor, got all their scoring from three players. Brock Mitchell lead Panther Valley with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Zach Stanko finished with 12 points, while Nate Mathewson scored all 10 of his points in the first half.

"Offensively, we need to get Brock and Zach more looks," said Panther Valley head coach Pat Crampsie. "Too many times tonight we had one pass or a quick shot and that killed us. It allowed Marian to get in transition and they went on a run. Then we started pressing, which resulted in missed opportunities and turnovers."

For Marian, Ryan Gimbi backed Barletta with 10 points.

"In the first half, we had some issues with chemistry," stated Patton. "We got an early lead and then we gave it away with a pretty sloppy second quarter. At halftime, we challenged the kids to start playing together and they came out and did that."

MAHANOY AREA

Senglar 5-3-7-13, Wagner 2-3-7-7, Kimmel 0-0-0-0, Gaval 3-5-6-13, Goodman 1-2-4-5, Oertner 5-0-0-12, Baker 0-0-0-0, Cavenas 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 17-13-24-52.

JIM THORPE

DiBonifazio 6-0-0-15, Moranta 0-2-2-2, Moore 0-0-2-0, Ciavarella 2-3-5-7, Otto 0-0-0-0, Brown 0-0-2-0, Clark 5-3-4-13, Coleman 1-0-2-2. TOTALS: 14-8-17-39.

Mahanoy Area 13 15 7 17 - 52

Jim Thorpe 8 8 9 14 - 39

Three-Pointers: MA - Gaval 2, Oertner 2, Goodman 1; JT - DiBonifazio 3.

MARIAN

Keer 2-0-0-6, Stawick 0-0-0-0, Barletta 12-3-6-30, Ryba 0-0-0-0, Gimbi 4-2-4-10, Baker 0-0-0-0, Nesgoda 0-0-0-0, Dom. Richards 3-1-2-7, Weber 0-0-0-0, Pilla 0-0-0-0, Motil 0-0-0-0, Karnish 0-2-2-2, Agosti 0-0-0-0, Dam. Richards 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-8-14-55.

PANTHER VALLEY

King 0-0-0-0, Hadesty 0-0-0-0, Dunn 0-0-0-0, Stanko 4-3-5-12, McArdle 0-0-0-0, Ogozalek 0-0-0-0, Santiago 0-0-0-0, Dalessio 0-0-0-0, Revell 0-0-0-0, Kerschner 0-0-0-0, Mathewson 5-0-0-10, Mitchell 8-4-8-20. TOTALS: 17-7-13-42.

Marian 13 9 17 16 - 55

Panther Valley 8 15 13 6 - 42

Three-Pointers: M - Barletta 3, Keer 2; PV - Stanko 1.