Decision time nearing for Franklin Regional’s Nick Leopold

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019 | 1:30 AM


Franklin Regional’s Nick Leopold soon will find himself at a fork in the road.

The senior two-sport standout has some options to consider when it comes to making his college decision.

Football or basketball?

Defensive back or point guard?

Which level?

Leopold, who will lead the Panthers (17-7) against Lower Dauphin (24-3) on Friday night in the PIAA Class 5A playoff opener at Milton Hershey, has plenty of athletic talent, but academics were the starting point in his college search. He wants to get into nursing so that immediately helped him begin to filter potential destinations.

Duquesne, IUP and John Carroll have what he wants as far as a nursing program. Now, he needs to pick a sport.

His brother, Nate, will be a sophomore at John Carroll. He started at defensive back last season and could end up going to training camp with his sibling.

Nick, the Panthers’ leading scorer in basketball and a go-to receiver and ballhawking defensive back in football, has a preferred walk-on offer from IUP for basketball.

“I am still considering some things,” said the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Leopold. “If I decide to play football, it would be at John Carroll.”

Franklin Regional basketball coach Steve Scorpion said Leopold is a unique case in that he isn’t enamored with the sports-side of the process.

“Nick is different,” Scorpion said. “A lot of kids his age don’t know what they want to do. They just say, ‘I want to play basketball or football.’ I was that way. I just wanted to play basketball. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my profession. I just wanted to play at the highest level I could. Nick wants to be a pediatric nurse. He’s great with kids. He’s great with Little Scorp (the coach’s son). He knows what he wants. He’s a smart kid.”

Norwin-Altoona rematch

Norwin (21-2) will play Altoona (16-7) in the PIAA Class 6A girls first round Friday night at Hollidaysburg. The state playoffs often match unfamiliar teams, unless teams from the same districts play, which often happens among the WPIAL congregation.

But this matchup is unique in the teams have played three times over the last two years.

Norwin downed Altoona, 48-38, in the season-opening North Allegheny tournament. Last year, host Altoona won 53-52 in a midseason nonsection game. And in 2017, Norwin picked up a 65-58 win, again in the season opener at the North Allegheny tournament.

Readiness and execution, Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said, outweigh acquaintanceship when it comes to advancing in the state bracket.

“Playing Altoona will be a challenge,” Brozeski said. “They, too, are getting better as the year goes on, and they are getting healthier, too. Again, there is a lot of time between games, thus both teams will have more than enough time to break down film and create a gameplan that puts their team in the best position to win the game.”

Norwin-NA rivalry

The Norwin and North Allegheny girls would have a long way to go to play each other again. They both would need to reach the PIAA 6A semifinals.

North Allegheny edged Norwin, 37-36, in the WPIAL semifinals. That came after the teams split in Section 1 play.

Another playoff rematch would be a fourth meeting, which would conjure memories of 2015, when the teams played three times.

Norwin won all three: 50-48 in the regular season; 60-52 in the WPIAL semis; and 51-47 in the PIAA quarterfinals. Norwin lost to Cumberland Valley in the state semifinals.

Area games

While the four PIAA qualifiers from Westmoreland County — Norwin girls; Franklin Regional, Ligonier Valley and Monessen boys — all will make lengthy treks to play first-round games, one area school will host games.

On Friday at Greensburg Salem, the WPIAL Class 5A champion Mars boys (24-1) will take on Milton Hershey (19-7) at 6 p.m., and the Brentwood (19-4) and Penns Manor girls (22-2) will follow with a Class 2A opener at 7:30.

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

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