The season opening match-up between Marian and Panther Valley last night wasn't pretty, but it was certainly exciting.

The Colts managed to score just 13 points in the first half, shooting 5-for-32 from the field in that time span, but surged in the third to help them capture an ugly 46-40 win over rival Panther Valley.

The win will pit the Colts against another rival in the Bears from Mahanoy Area tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the championship game of the Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament.

The Panthers, who dawn a relatively inexperienced squad, gave the experienced Colts all they could handle throughout the ball game. The real issue for Marian was its misfortunes on the offensive end of the floor in the first half. Along with shooting just 16 percent as a team in the first half, shooting guard Ryan Karnish, who will be counted on heavily to produce points for Marian went 0-for-11 from the field. Still, the Colts were down just eight points heading into intermission.

"We didn't spend much time in the locker room at half, we told the guys we can't really ask much more of our defense letting up just 20 points in two quarters," said Marian head coach John Patton. "Our defense played fantastic and our offense was just putrid. You know it's the first game of the year and you got guys nervous or whatever, but we knew that our shots were going to have to fall a little better for us in the second half and that's what happened."

Marian turned up the heat on the defensive end of the floor in the third quarter switching to a full-court press, forcing the Panthers to turn it over seven times in the frame. The Colt's pressure helped them to go on a 10-0 run to give Marian a 22-20 advantage with about 5:30 left in the third. Panther Valley assassin Jake Szczecina answered the call on the next possession however with a trey putting the Panthers up one with 5:17 remaining. Marian's pressure would strike again after the Szczecina three catapulting them on 7-0 run to end the third, giving the Colts a 29-23 lead heading into the fourth.

A big reason for the Colts improved play was Karnish and his backcourt mate Anthony Agosti. Karnish scored seven points and Agosti six to give Marian some consistency on the offensive end.

"Ryan (Karnish) is a shooter so he had to keep on shooting," said Patton. "He really had to check his conscious at the door and just shoot it better in the second half and that's what he did. Agosti is our leader offensively and defensively and we knew that coming in. He came out and played a solid game and really kept us in the game in the first half when we were struggling to score."

Marian had the momentum heading into the fourth quarter, but the Panthers would not go away. After Marian scored back-to-back buckets to start the fourth, PV saw itself down 11, but clawed its way back within three with 3:50 remaining. A three by Logan Stano and another triple by Szczcecina sparked the Panther comeback. A Karnish long ball quieted the Panther faithful for a moment, but two free throws and a three from Stano brought the Panthers within one with 2:55 left. The Panthers would stay close and had some opportunities to take the lead, but miscues on the offensive end kept them from getting them victory.

Although the Panthers aren't into moral victories, head coach Pat Crampsie was happy with their effort and is encouraged by the play of some of his inexperienced players.

"I'm thrilled with the effort these guys displayed tonight," said Crampsie. "It's a rivalry game and of course we want the win, but for some of these guys it was their first big game as varsity players and they handled it pretty well. It's encouraging the way we played tonight and I'm excited for us to keep working to get better."

For Marian Anthony Agosti led the charge with 17 points, while Karnish finished with 14. Alden Whah was a force in the interior grabbing 16 rebounds.

For Panther Valley, Szczecina had 12. Logan Stano chipped in with 11.

MARIAN

Talbott 0-0-0-0, Whah 3-2-2-8, Kweder 0-0-0-0, Karnish 5-2-2-14, N. Agosti 0-0-0-0, Richards 1-1-3-3, Swankoski 2-0-2-4, Damian 0-0-0-0, A. Agosti 6-4-9-17. TOTALS: 17-9-18-46.

PANTHER VALLEY

Romanchik 2-1-3-6, Kerschner 1-0-0-3, Levitt 0-0-0-0, Szczecina 4-0-0-12, Stano 3-2-2-11, Kusko 1-0-0-2, Ferryman 2-2-3-6, Vermillion 0-0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-5-8-40.

Marian 9 3 21 13 - 46

Panther Vy. 13 7 6 14 - 40

Three-pointers: Marian - Karnish 2, Agosti 1; Panther Valley - Szczecina 4, Stano 3, Romanchik 1.