District 3 champion Lower Dauphin pulls past Franklin Regional

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Friday, March 8, 2019 | 10:21 PM


HERSHEY — Franklin Regional had Lower Dauphin on the ropes but couldn’t deliver the knockout punch.

The Panthers basketball season ended with a 53-46 loss to the District 3 champion in the first round of the PIAA 5A playoffs Friday night at Milton Hershey School.

Franklin Regional (17-8), the No. 6 seed from the WPIAL, scored 20 points on Lower Dauphin during the second quarter to seemingly seize control with a 31-24 lead at the break. But form wouldn’t hold.

Lower Dauphin (25-3) hung around during the opening minutes of the third quarter, then ripped off a 9-0 run to grab a 41-36 advantage heading into the final quarter. The Panthers would close it to 41-38 with the initial bucket of the fourth quarter but could not surmount it.

“The games that we’ve lost this year, we’ve just gone cold for stretches,” Panthers coach Steve Scorpion said, referencing Lower Dauphin’s 9-0 run to close the third. “It’s not the first time it’s happened. I thought we turned the ball over too much, I thought we got careless and we panicked a little bit.

“The kids battled and they fought. We got looks. We just missed ‘em.”

The Panthers outscored the Falcons, 20-9, during an exciting eight minutes of ball during the second quarter. Franklin Regional led 20-19 when Thomas Meraate drained a shot midway through the quarter. The team was in rhythm while disrupting its opposition. The flow dissipated after the break.

“We missed shots early in the third quarter, and I think that had a lot to do with it,” Scorpion said. “Would have liked to get to the free-throw line more, but eight times the whole game, two in the second half.”

Lower Dauphin point guard Luke Hetrick proved to be a tough stop for the Panthers. He had 13 first-quarter points on his way to a team-high 22. He also went 5 of 6 from the free-throw line down the stretch to keep the Panthers at bay.

“He’s a good player,’ Scorpion said of Hetrick. “We knew he could shoot. We knew he could score. They’re really big and they’re No. 1 in their district for a reason. They’ve got a lot of weapons and they’re a good team.”

The season ended in tough fashion, but Scorpion was proud of his club.

“The kids battled, and they never quit,’ he said. “They defended and played tough.”

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