Boys basketball preview: Franklin Regional to rely on deep group of returning guards

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020 | 12:02 PM


On paper, the 2019-20 Franklin Regional boys basketball season looked like a tale of two halves with a 7-2 run down the stretch to get into the postseason after 5-9 start, but it was more of a yearlong journey of growing up.

The Panthers had only three returning players with varsity experience and took some lumps on the fly before rounding into a formidable foe.

Now those players are a year older and wiser, and there’s excitement building in Murrysville.

Franklin Regional returns seven players who saw starting time last year and will anchor a deep team for fourth-year coach Steve Scorpion.

“We have a nice mix with young guys and some older guys that all have talent,” Scorpion said. “I keep telling these guys that we have a lot of players and that we can only play five at a time, so they have to compete every day, and you have to produce. They have to understand that if someone is producing in a game then we have to go with them and the next game might be their game or someone else’s game.

“A lot of teams have one guy that they count on, and if he isn’t playing well then they may struggle to win. We don’t have one go-to guy. We have a group of really good players that any night could have a big game.”

Seniors Luke Kimmich, Ben Roseburg, Luke Treloar and Jeffrey Downs and juniors Caden Smith and Aidan Carlisle are guards who had starting time last year as well as senior forward Kadyn Hannah.

All seven figure to see significant minutes for a team that will have a deep bench.

The main points of emphasis for Scorpion to his team are defense and competitiveness. His goal is to return the Panthers to be the best defensive team in Class 5A like they were in 2017 and ’18. They were fourth in Class 5A last year, holding opponents to 53.5 points per game.

Scorpion has a good trend-setter for defense in Smith, whom the coach said has had the same blue-collar makeup since he first saw him play as a sixth grader in AAU.

“He’s the toughest kid. He plays the hardest and is always competing no matter if it’s a workout, a drill or in a game,” Scorpion said. “When he sets the tone, other guys see that and think, ‘If he’s playing that hard, then I have to play that hard, too.’ That’s the mindset this group had. It starts with Caden and trickles down to the rest of the team.

“We have several guys that have been in the program long enough that the standard has been set and if they aren’t meeting that standard they know someone else will. When you have guys that can shoot it and are athletic that play hard defense then you have a pretty good mix.”

The last two years the Panthers played and had some classic games against Shaler, Mars and Hampton in Section 3-5A. Franklin Regional will be in Section 3 once again but will have a mostly new crop of opponents in Gateway, Latrobe, McKeesport, Penn Hills, Woodland Hills and Kiski Area.

Scorpion expects a tough road but also expects his players to be ready for the challenge.

“The last two years we had the best team in the WPIAL in our section in Mars, and this year we have another one of the best teams in the WPIAL in Penn Hills,” Scorpion said. “They’ll probably be a top-three team in the preseason with Laurel Highlands and Mars. I coach a lot of the Gateway kids in AAU, and I student taught there last year, so I know a lot of those kids and they are going to be very, very good.

“Latrobe is consistently always good, and so is McKeesport. Those are teams that know how to win. A lot of our kids know them from playing AAU. We’re going to be ready to go because we have to be ready to go. There aren’t any off nights. The entire section from top to bottom is really good.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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