Belle Vernon boys respond with victory over Franklin Regional

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Saturday, January 28, 2023 | 10:22 PM


Joe Salvino sent his team an impassioned message after Friday’s win over Southmoreland.

The Belle Vernon boys basketball coach didn’t hold back.

Red-faced and vehement, and with that familiar shrill, he questioned his team’s accountability, its defensive energy and its eagerness to play as a team after the Leopards were nearly outplayed at home.

In Saturday night’s follow-up — the opening game of the Shootout at Seton Hill — it was clear the players were listening.

The Leopards clapped back, letting their play do the talking as Zion Moore scored 12 of his 23 points in the third quarter to lead four players in double figures in a 66-52 victory over short-handed Franklin Regional at Seton Hill’s McKenna Center.

“We played a lot better, but I think we can play even better than this,” Moore said. “We know we need to do some things better. We received that message.”

Quinton Martin added 15 points and 11 rebounds, Alonzo Wade scored 14 and Tommy Davis chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds in his first start.

Salvino’s end game is to get the Leopards to play to their potential in a stacked Class 4A. The Leopards responded with their fourth win in five games — and their 700th in school history.

Eight more, and they’ll have as many as Salvino, who has 709, most of them coming at Monessen.

“I need them to understand, I’m not mad at them. I’m more like a parent who is disappointed in them,” Salvino said. “They played more as a team tonight. They shared the ball. The defense played well, too. Let’s see if it keeps up tomorrow.”

The Leopards (9-7) will play their third game in as many days Sunday night against North Hills at the PBC Classic at Montour.

Even without two key starters, Franklin Regional (9-8) went basket-for-basket with the athletic Leopards, led by sharp-shooting guard Fin Hutchison, who connected on 7 of 12 3-pointers for a career-high 25 points.

The Panthers hit 11 3s as a team.

“We got our teeth kicked in last night (55-40 against Penn-Trafford) at home,” Panthers coach Jesse Reed said. “Our guys were chomping at the bit. We’re still learning to play with a new lineup.”

The Panthers’ top two scorers, Cam Rowell and Cooper Rankin, missed their fourth straight game because of injuries.

Hutchison put on a clinic from the arc.

“I am always ready to shoot,” said Hutchison, who scored 11 in the first quarter.

“I love the moment, and I love playing on bigger floors. I have been to some camps here. I knew I had to step up. We really wanted to get the win, though.”

Belle Vernon led 19-15 after the first quarter and 33-30 at halftime.

The Panthers’ only lead came at 30-29 on a floater in the lane by Jake Kimmich, who finished with 11 points.

Kimmich also tied it 27-27 with a 3. Later, his two free throws cut it to 47-40, but the Leopards began to gain spacing in the fourth.

Belle Vernon began to take control when it was scoring in transition and making extra passes.

Martin and Davis scored inside to push the lead to 59-45.

Hutchison hit a 3, and Kimmich made two more free throws to close the gap to 61-52 with 2 minutes, 30 seconds to play.

But Davis put back a miss and added a late layup for the final points.

“We played a solid 24-26 minutes,” Reed said. “There were six to eight where we weren’t competing like we can.

“I expect what we saw from Fin. I know how hard he works. It’s nice to see him have a game like this.”

Both teams got a lift from new faces. With Braden Laux, the Leopards’ starting forward, at Eastern Michigan for a football visit, Davis stepped in admirably.

“He gave us good minutes,” Salvino said. “He played well.”

Junior Bryson Pavlik, a transfer from Gateway, came off the bench to score 10 for the Panthers.

Connor Crossey chipped in 10 points for the Panthers, including two 3s.

The event lost a varsity game Saturday after Geibel withdrew due to illness to several players.

The Gators were supposed to play Greensburg Central Catholic but instead rescheduled the game for 6 p.m. Thursday at GCC.

Geibel beat Monessen, 75-55, on Friday night as Jaydis Kennedy scored 44 points.

Geibel coach Don Porter said one of his players went to the hospital Friday after the game, and another sought treatment Saturday morning.

The Franklin Regional and Belle Vernon junior varsity teams played instead, a thrill for those players on the large college floor.

The two-day showcase continues Sunday with five games.

The schedule: Greensburg Salem vs. Franklin Regional (girls) at 1:30 p.m.; Indiana vs. Trinity (girls), 3; McKeesport vs. Greensburg Central Catholic (girls), 4:30; Norwin vs. Latrobe (boys), 6; Greensburg Salem vs. Jeannette (boys), 7:30.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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