Baskets scarce as Franklin Regional edges Moon in WPIAL quarterfinals
By: Chris Harlan
Friday, February 23, 2018 | 10:16 PM
Two free throws in the final 22 seconds by junior Nick Leopold accounted for Franklin Regional's entire offensive output for the fourth quarter.
Somehow, those two points were enough.
No. 3 seed Franklin Regional and No. 6 Moon combined for only four fourth-quarter points with no baskets and just two free throws apiece in the final 8 minutes Friday night.
When a last-second driving layup by Moon's Connor Ryan missed, Franklin Regional celebrated a 28-26 victory in a WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinal at North Hills. Two offenses that typically average in the 60s were held below 30.
Combined, the teams went 0 for 9 from the field in the fourth.
“It was a grind-it-out type of game,” Leopold said. “You'd say: ‘Awe, come on, you're going to get one. You're going to get one.' And then when you don't get one, you've really got to dig down and play defense. That's what we did today.”
With Franklin Regional ahead by two points, Moon's Taru Jones made one free throw with 5:12 left, Leopold made one with 22.3 seconds left, Jones answered with one at the 18.6-second mark, and finally Leopold hit his last with 16.1 seconds left.
Leopold went 2 for 7 from the foul line in the fourth, and Jones made 2 of 4.
It was an odd shooting night where layups and foul shots missed but a three-quarters court shot by Franklin Regional's Nate Leopold found the net at the first-quarter buzzer.
No scorer from either team reached double figures. Hunter Stonecheck led Franklin Regional (19-5) with nine points. Jioni Smith scored eight for Moon (18-6).
“It was two very good defensive teams who knew each other's sets and did a great job of taking each other out of what the other team wanted to do,” Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. “Every shot was tough. Even the made shots were tough. There were maybe a handful on each side of easy, uncontested shots. Maybe one or two? Even the breakaway layups were contested.”
The victory advances Franklin Regional to face No. 2 Highlands in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be announced. The two teams split their regular-season matchups and tied for the section title.
Franklin Regional never trailed Friday, but its largest lead was only six points. The team led 19-13 at halftime and 26-24 after the third quarter.
Franklin Regional went 12 for 31 shooting and had quarters of 13, six, seven and two points. Moon, which made just 9 of 38 attempts against Franklin's zone, scored six, seven, 11 and two.
“Both teams played a really good defensive game,” Moon coach Adam Kaufman said. “And both teams shot the ball about as bad as they can shoot. Free throws, layups, threes, you name it, we couldn't throw it in the ocean. Unfortunately, they made more than we did.”
With 16.1 left, Leopold made the first of two free throws, Moon rebounded the missed second shot and called timeout. The final shot wasn't exactly what Moon planned, but Ryan had found a lane to the basket.
“When Connor caught the ball, he just saw a gap to go,” Kaufman said. “He made a great play, the ball just didn't go in. Their length at the rim gave us problems all night.”
Moon and Franklin Regional don't share a section, but this was their fifth matchup in two seasons. Moon had won three of the previous four including a 52-48 regular-season win Jan. 11 at Franklin Regional.
This time, Franklin Regional needed more than six minutes to reach double figures. Moon didn't get there until more than a minute into the second quarter. Nobody reached 20 until the third.
“I've told these guys from Day 1, you've got to defend,” Scorpion said. “I always tell them, you're not always going to make shots. You go to different gyms. You use different basketballs. Sometimes you just don't make shots. But defense and rebounding, that travels to every gym that you go to.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .