Colin Masten gets to rim, helps Franklin Regional to PIAA 5A quarterfinals

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Tuesday, March 12, 2024 | 10:17 PM


ALTOONA — Colin Masten wears jersey No. 1, which was fitting Tuesday night because of how many times he made folks say, “And one!”

The senior scored a game-high 21 points including a trio of three-point plays as Franklin Regional defeated District 4 champion Selinsgrove, 56-45, in a PIAA Class 5A second-round game. By attacking the rim, Masten repeatedly sparked the Panthers, who advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time in 27 years.

“He’s just aggressive,” Franklin Regional coach Jesse Reed said. “He was confident with the ball. He got to the rim early and knocked down some shots when we needed them. He was the spark we needed tonight.”

His timing was also perfect.

Masten scored his first “And one!” in the opening minute to get the Panthers off to a fast start, and his second broke a second-quarter tie when the offense had gotten stagnant. He struck again with a few minutes left in the fourth, dashing Selinsgrove’s hopes with a layup and foul shot that pushed the lead to 14.

“You’ve just got to attack the rim hard,” said Masten, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward. “I was going like, ‘Nobody’s about to block this!’ I’m going up through them. I’m going through their chin and getting an ‘And one.’ ”

Masten also made a couple of traditional 3-pointers from beyond the arc and went 5 for 5 from the foul line.

Junior forward Drew Devola added 12 points off the bench, including eight in the fourth quarter.

The win advances Franklin Regional (25-3) to the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1997, a year when the Panthers went all the way to Hershey and finished as state runners-up.

They’ll face Shaler on Friday at a site and time to be determined. The teams have already met twice this season and Franklin Regional won both. The most recent matchup was in the WPIAL semifinals, and Franklin Regional won, 69-40.

“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Reed said. “We played really well the last time we played them. We know it’s not going to be like that again. It’s going to be a heck of a game, a heck of an atmosphere.”

Shaler defeated District 3 champion Mechanicsburg, 68-48, in the first game of the doubleheader at Altoona. Franklin Regional arrived early and watched.

All four teams on Franklin Regional’s side of the PIAA bracket are from the WPIAL. Moon and Bethel Park also advanced with wins Tuesday.

“This just shows how deep we are,” Reed said. “You’ll have four WPIAL teams in the elite eight. That’s pretty darn good.”

Franklin Regional is headed there thanks to Masten’s big plays, but also a solid defensive effort. Masten’s layup and foul shot early in the second quarter gave the Panthers a three-point lead they never lost, but they didn’t pull away immediately.

Their lead was five points at halftime and seven after three quarter, but their defense kept them ahead.

Franklin Regional opened the second half with a 6-0 run that included a runner by Masten and transition layups from Cam Rowell and Fin Hutchison after Selinsgrove turnovers.

Selinsgrove (18-8) had three scorers in double figures, led by senior Ries Naugle with 14. Junior Gavin Bastian added 11 points, and Luke Piecuch had 10.

Franklin Regional wasn’t happy with the pace — only 43 points combined at halftime — but the Panthers picked up the scoring late. They won the second half, 32-26.

“Our offense was a little stagnant in the first half,” Reed said. “In the second, we kind of going it going, got to the rim a little more and got some easy looks. We settled a lot early on and weren’t really defending all that well.

“I thought we picked up the intensity a little bit in the third quarter.”

On the road, in an unfamiliar gym, almost two hours from home, teams can certainly feel a little sluggish.

“We had to bring our own energy, for sure,” said Masten, who was responsible for giving his team a few jolts.

A three-point play by Masten in the game’s opening minute gave Franklin Regional a lead with a basket and foul shot that got the Panthers off to a fast start. Helped by four Selinsgrove turnovers in the quarter, they pushed their lead to 10-3 behind baskets by Cooper Rankin and Devola and a 3-pointer by Masten.

Another three-point play, this time by Rowell, extended Franklin Regional’s lead to 13-5 near the 3-minute mark.

The Panthers cooled a little late in the quarter, letting Selinsgrove rally back with eight straight points. The run finished with a tying 3-pointer by Bastian a minute into the second for a 13-13 tie.

But just like in the first quarter, a three-point play by Masten got Franklin Regional going again. Masten finished a tie-breaking layup, drew contact and made the free throw to give the lead back to the Panthers.

“He’s a strong finisher at the rim and he’s been doing it all year,” Reed said. “They were timely buckets when we needed them.”

Hutchison followed with a runner and the Panthers pulled away a little with a 9-2 run. A 3-pointer by Masten from the corner gave them a 22-15 lead with 1:30 left before half.

Masten made both of his 3-point tries in the first half, but the Panthers combined went just 2 for 11 from beyond the arc.

Franklin Regional led 24-19 at half and opened the third quarter with six straight points, pushing its lead to 11.

The Panthers’ largest third-quarter lead was 33-21 on a 3-pointer by Hutchison. Selinsgrove twice cut the lead down to five but got no closer.

Franklin Regional led 37-30 after three.

In the fourth, Devola scored eight points and Masten has seven. The Panthers’ lead was back in double digits with 6 minutes left when Devola scored on a layup in transition.

With 2:24 left, Masten delivered his third “And one!” to give Franklin Regional a 52-38 lead.

“I was really happy with what he was doing,” Reed said. “He was aggressive in the middle of the zone, looking to attack and get his. When they stepped up, he dished off. He was awesome tonight.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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