This year's Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament certainly wasn't an offensive showcase, but it definitely provided area hoop fans with some exciting basketball over the weekend.
The Colts, who edged rival Panther Valley in Friday's semifinal, went to battle with another rival on Saturday night when they played Mahanoy Area for the tourney crown. An 18-point second quarter effort, along with some late game heroics from big man Alden Whah, gave the Colts a 45-43 victory, earning Marian two hard fought victories in as many days.
The Colts picked up their offensive output from the night prior against Panther Valley. The Colts shot almost 50 percent from the field against the Bears in the first half, which is a big improvement over their 5-for-32 performance against the Panthers. The Colts used the second quarter to gain a 26-17 halftime advantage, outscoring Mahanoy 18-5. Marian point guard Anthony Agosti got the ball rolling for the Colts for the second night in a row, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the first half, including two threes.
However, it isn't Marian's offense that's the story. In fact, it's the Colts' defensive play that has helped them grind out both victories in the tourney as they held their opponents to 41.5 points per contest average.
"When you struggle offensively you have to play good defense," said Marian head coach John Patton. "We work more defense than we do offense in practice and that may hurt us on the offensive end, but playing in the Schuylkill League you need to play good defense. There's days where you're not going to be able to score, so you have to hold teams to a low number of points. That's a good team we just held to 43 points and we'll take that everyday of the week."
The second half was a bit of a different story for the Colts, especially in the fourth quarter.
The always tough Bears' defense started to take control in the second half. Mahanoy outscored Marian 26-18 in the third and fourth quarter, forcing the Colts into eight turnovers.
"It was 31-20 and they started forcing us into some bad situations," said Patton. "We wanted to spread the floor to take advantage of some of the mismatches and we ended up forcing the issue. I thought maybe one extra pass would have gotten us the basket we were looking for, but I have to give credit to Mahanoy's defense. They played great down the stretch."
Mahanoy held the Colts to just one field goal in the fourth. However, that one field goal ended up being the most important bucket of the night. After two Mahanoy Area free throws knotted the game up at 45-45, Agosti received the inbounds pass and took the ball coast to coast floating a runner from about seven feet out. The ball glanced off the right side of the rim and into the the waiting hands of Whah, who hit the put back as time expired.
"You can't give up at the end of a game, you can't stop playing," said Whah. "That's my job in that situation. I have to get to the rim and see if I can get a tip or whatever to help us win. I had the position and I just finished the play."
The Colts have now gotten two tough rivalry wins early in the season. As noted before the offense hasn't been great, but two physical battles early on in the season is a good gauge to see where a team is at.
"We certainly struggled a little bit, but we made plays when we needed to," said Patton. "This is it, these are four league teams and I told the kids it will be like this all season long. It's going to be a war everytime we go out there."
McGee 2-5-6-10, Cavenas 4-4-6-12, Kuzma 4-1-3-10, Mahmod 1-0-0-2, McNeil 2-2-2-7, Miller 0-2-2-2; TOTALS: 13-14-19-43.
Whah 1-3-4-5, Karnish 2-3-6-7, Richards 3-2-2-8, Swankoski 2-5-8-10, Damian 1-0-0-2, Agosti 5-0-2-13; TOTALS: 14-13-22-45.
Marian 8 18 8 11 - 45
Mahanoy 12 5 7 19 - 43
Three-pointers: MA - McGee 1, Kuzma 1, McNeil 1; M - Agosti 3, Swankoski 1.