Franklin Regional girls fall short of playoff goals

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Monday, February 12, 2018 | 11:00 PM


After a campaign of promising basketball in 2016-17, which included a winning record and a trip to the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs, the Franklin Regional girls basketball team hoped to take the next step this year.

However, the Panthers found themselves on the other side of the coin a majority of the time, including the stretch run in Section 4, and they were not able to earn a spot in the playoffs.

“The girls knew their backs were against the wall these last couple of games, and they gave their best effort,” coach Courtney Callas said. “You always want to be on the other side of that situation coming down the stretch like we were last year.”

Franklin Regional, which finished 8-13 overall, completed a season sweep of Indiana on Jan. 18 that put it at 3-4 in section play, but the Panthers suffered setbacks in their final five section games to finish 3-9 in the section, a game behind rival Plum for the fourth and final playoff spot.

A 46-36 loss to the Mustangs in the section finale last Thursday put Plum in the playoffs.

A 61-59, last-second setback to Kiski Area the week before added to the frustration. At the time, the Cavaliers were fighting for that final playoff spot.

“It was a high-pressure situation, and it was a learning experience no matter what grade they're in,” Callas said. “There were multiple situations and possessions throughout the game that could've been handled differently that would've prevented it from being so close at the end.”

Franklin Regional pushed section co-champions Hampton and Mars in late-season matchups before the Talbots and Planets were able to win.

“When we played Hampton and Mars, all credit to them as they are great teams with great players, I felt we really showed up to play against them the second time around,” Callas said. “In both games, we had it within four points at the end of the third quarter, but they were able to pull away at the start of the fourth. I give credit to the girls. They left it all out on the court.”

Senior Isi Palamone led the Panthers in scoring at 11.8 points per game. She also led the way with 8.2 rebounds.

She formed the senior class with Juliana Merlina and Julia Petrucci.

“(The seniors) clearly had a vision for what they wanted,” Callas said. “Their effort was 100 percent there. I feel bad for the girls that we weren't able to capitalize on the goals set forward for their final year.”

Callas said the team heads into the offseason with a positive outlook. A core of four starters return next year in juniors guards Courtney Giles and Kaitlyn Carr and junior forwards Alex Reitz and Jordan Yaniga.

Yaniga averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds this year, and Reitz was second on the team in rebounding with seven per game.

Callas said players such as sophomores Noelle Boyd (5.1 ppg.) and Brook Leopold will add to what should be a deep rotation next year. The group of freshmen, Callas added, improved this year and should have a shot at filling roles on varsity.

“The kids have experienced making it to the playoffs and the disappointment of not making it,” Callas said. “I think they understand, from both seasons, what it takes all year long to position yourself the right way to be successful.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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