Franklin Regional boys claw past Woodland Hills for Section 3-5A basketball win

Tuesday, January 25, 2022 | 10:10 PM

The grind makes the victory that much sweeter.

That was what Franklin Regional coach Jesse Reed had to say after his team rallied — scratched and clawed was more like it — to finally brush past visiting Woodland Hills, 45-42, on Tuesday night in a Section 3-5A boys basketball game in Murrysville.

“We’re resilient,” Reed said. “We found a way at the end. I am proud of our guys. This game took winning plays. We made them.”

Both teams had just one field goal in a droning fourth quarter, but Franklin Regional (5-10, 4-4) made 11 of 13 free throws — 19 of 24 for the game — for its third win in four games.

This is the first time the team has won two in a row all season.

Woodland Hills (7-9, 4-3), which has dropped five of six, won the first meeting 51-49, rallying from nine down at the half.

This time, the Panthers trailed by six (25-19) at the break and 38-32 after three quarters before a patient fourth quarter helped them sand down the deficit.

Sophomore Cam Rowell, who led all scorers with 16 points, keyed the final-quarter run. He scored on a layup off a pass from junior Jake Kimmich to make it 40-38 with 2 minutes, 42 seconds remaining.

Then, he made four straight free throws to tie it 40-40 and 42-42 with a minute left.

Senior Caden Smith made a steal as Woodland Hills was trying to run some clock, and the Panthers took possession on the jump ball with 30 seconds left.

Kimmich then was fouled with the Panthers in the double bonus, and he made both attempts to give Franklin Regional a 44-42 lead with 13.4 seconds left.

“We started playing defense. We went to a (2-3) zone midway through the third quarter, and it helped us,” Rowell said. “We’re a very solid defensive team.”

Another tie-up gave Woodland Hills possession in the waning seconds. The Wolverines inbounded from the baseline with 5.2 seconds left, but Panthers’ 6-foot-8 junior center Max Leven put his arms up and partially blocked a potential tying shot by junior T.J. Jenkins.

Leven also had a key rebound late in the fourth.

Smith made a free throw for the final point. He had 10 of his 11 points in the second half.

“Max made the play of the game,” Reed said. “I am very proud of him. We needed him to make a play there, and he did.”

Junior Cruz McMillan led Woodland Hills with 11 points, and senior Delrius Robinson fouled out with nine.

“Free-throw shooting down the stretch won this game,” Reed said. “It takes mental toughness to knock those down in that situation. These are the kind of games we expect in this section.”

Woodland Hills made 7 of 13 free throws.

Both teams are battling for one of the four playoff berths in a section race that is tightening by the day.

Gateway leads at 4-1, followed by Penn Hills (5-2), Woodland Hills (4-3), Franklin Regional (4-4), Kiski Area (3-4), McKeesport (3-5), and Latrobe (2-6).

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

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