The season was 15 seconds old when Clearview girls' basketball coach Neil Bress took off his suit jacket.

Bress says the jacket is only for show, but his team also rolled up its sleeves and put on some opening performance.

The Pioneers beat Williamstown, 44-35, in the opening game for these two Tri-County Royal Division teams.

Bress has been around long enough to know that conclusions off opening night games are meaningless.

Williamstown has won three consecutive Tri-County Royal Division titles ,and despite being depleted by graduation and devoid of size, nobody's going to relish meeting the Braves down the road - such as next week.

Still, one can't emphasize how big a win this was for Bress and his program. This is his fifth season, and the Pioneers were 0-8 against Williamstown in the first four years.

"I've been looking forward to this since I found out this would be our opener," Bress said.

He found out in the spring and used this as sort of a springboard to get his team ready. And he also didn't mind stealing from the team he beat, using the work done by Williamstown coach Karen Dilmore as a guide for his own program.

"I think that Karen is the best coach in the conference, and I saw the things she was doing with her team, and I tried to incorporate that with my program," he said.

One of them is upgrading the schedule, which is why the Pioneers have such a tough nonleague game today with Group 2 contender Sterling.

Any coach would like his team to play with the heart of Williamstown. The Braves shot just 11 for 46 from the field and still cut the deficit to six points with under a minute left.

"They really play hard," said Clearview guard Melanie Mahan. "We could never relax against them."

Clearview has several ways to beat teams. Mahan, who is headed to Kutztown, had a game-high 18 points. Senior center Noelle Hogan added 13 points, while 6-foot-2 junior Kiley Grabbe added nine points and 18 rebounds.

Senior Kristin Manna can defend wing players and create her own shot, while point guard Michelle Tumolo, who will attend Syracuse on a lacrosse scholarship, won't score much but may lead the Trico Royal in floor burns.

For Williamstown, there could be additional growing pains for a team whose only returning starter is senior point guard Devan Solari. Still, the Braves can't be dismissed as contenders in a Royal Division that has plenty of other candidates.

"For our sake, I hope two to three losses can still win the division," Dilmore said.

That is two to three more losses than the Braves had last year, when they ran the table and went 12-0 against Royal Division competition.

"I don't think Williamstown is going anywhere," Bress said.

Then without pause, he added, "Neither are we."

With that, he put on his jacket and left the gym. He can only hope his team is wearing jackets by the end of the year, the ones that Williamstown has worn for winning the last three division titles.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci

at 856-779-3225

or mnarducci@phillynews.com.