Rivalry games usually bring out the best in teams and last night's contest between Marian and Panther Valley did just that.

The Colts started off strong with 27 first quarter points and never looked back as they put a major dent in the Panthers playoff hopes with a 68-53 victory.

However, rivalry games also bring out the best in players – just ask Marian's Mark Stawick.

The senior guard entered yesterday averaging 2.05 points per game, and in Marian's first 19 games this season, Stawick combined for 39 points and five three-pointers.

Last night, Stawick buried treys on Marian's first two shots of the game and ended the first half with 16 points and four three-pointers to pace Marian to a 40-34 halftime lead.

"We always knew he could shoot the ball, but he never really had much of an opportunity," relayed Marian head coach John Patton in regards to Stawick's career night. "We ran some plays to get him some shots and he hit some big ones there in the first half to open things up."

Stawick, whose previous season-high was eight points, led Marian with a game-high 20 points.

The Colts started the game by hitting 10 of their first 16 shots from the floor, as they built a 27-16 lead after one quarter. Stawick scored 11 in the opening frame, while Chris Barletta added nine.

"This game was a lot like the way we started off against Jim Thorpe," added Patton. "We made some shots and got a lead, but I said it then and I'll say it now, these rivalry games, league or non-leage, are just plain tough."

"Pat (Crampsie) is a good coach and I thought Panther Valley played a great game tonight. They kept coming at us and never back down."

The Panthers scored the first seven points of the second quarter and following a Nick McArdle three-pointer, Panther Valley trimmed the deficit to 32-30 with 4:33 remaining in the first half.

In fact, the Panthers shot over 50-percent from the floor in the first 16 minutes of play (13-for-25), as they went into the break trailing 40-34.

Their 34 first-half points equaled the amount of points they scored in the entire game against Blue Mountain just 24 hours earlier.

"That first half was kind of crazy," stated Crampsie. "Any time you give up 40 points in a half, you're usually in big-time trouble, but our kids really responded well on the offensive end and they were shooting with confidence."

The Panthers still only trailed by seven points with 4:45 left in the third quarter, but their hot shooting turned ice cold over the next eight minutes.

Panther Valley missed 11 straight shots from the floor, which allowed Marian to surge ahead 62-45. The Colts scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter and big man Dominick Richards finished off the Panthers by scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half.

Richards (13 points and 12 rebounds) joined Ryan bles for Marian, while Chris Barletta added 17 points.

For Panther Valley (8-11), Nate Mathewson scored 17 points, while Nick McArdle added 13, including three triples.

Panther Valley must now win its final three games (Tamaqua and Pine Grove twice) to qualify for the District 11 playoffs, while the Colts (16-4) will look to all but solidify the Schuylkill League Division 3 championship with a victory over Shenandoah Valley on Monday night.

In the JV game, Marian rolled to a 61-29 win behind John Julian's 18 points.

PANTHER VALLEY

Hadesty 0-0-0-0, Dunn 0-0-0-0, Stanko 2-3-5-7, McArdle 4-2-2-13, Dalessio 3-0-1-6, Revell 4-0-0-10, N. Mathewson 6-5-6-17. TOTALS: 19-10-14-53.

MARIAN

Keer 0-1-2-1, Stawick 6-4-4-20, Barletta 5-6-12-17, Karnish 0-0-0-0, Pilla 0-0-0-0, Gimbi 5-5-8-15, Baker 0-0-0-0, Nesgoda 0-0-0-0, Dom. Richards 6-1-1-13, Agosti 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 23-17-27-68.

Panther y. 16 18 9 10 - 53

Marian 27 13 13 15 - 68

Three-pointers: Panther Valley - McArdle 3, Revell 2; Marian - Stawick 4, Barletta 1.