Franklin Regional boys excited for ‘another chance to play’ in state tournament

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019 | 7:23 PM


A sense of finality seemed to wash over Franklin Regional boys basketball players, coaches and fans after the Panthers lost to Moon in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals at West Allegheny.

It was almost like the year-end banquet was the next event on the schedule, not the PIAA playoffs.

Some shrugged their shoulders — Oh well, what are you going to do?

There were congratulatory hugs and hand-shakes on “another great year,” and a few thank-you’s were issued.

But Moon breathed new life into the Panthers when it knocked off Penn Hills in the semifinals to pull Franklin Regional into the state tournament.

Hold the phone. Suddenly, it’s go time again.

“As a player and coach, you feel like the WPIAL playoffs are such a big thing,” Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. “It gets so much attention and media coverage; it’s like the WPIAL is a bigger deal than states. To other districts, states is a bigger deal. You get so geared up for WPIALs that when you lose, it’s like, we’re done. You almost forget about states.”

While WPIAL teams do tend to romanticize their tournament, and rightly so like football does in one of the state’s largest districts, the state playoffs offer another title shot. Franklin Regional (17-7) will open the PIAA bracket at 6:30 p.m. Friday against District 3 champion Lower Dauphin (24-3) at Milton Hershey High School.

“We had four days off, then came back and conditioned in practice to get their legs back,” Scorpion said. “Our guys want another chance to play; the kids are ready to go.”

Scorpion said a half-dozen players and their families went to watch Moon play Penn Hills at North Hills on Feb. 26.

“They wanted us to keep going,” the coach said.

It has been 12 days since Moon toppled the Panthers, 64-48, in the quarters. Recharging the team’s battery has been more physical than mental.

“It does feel like forever but that hasn’t affected anything for us,” senior guard Nick Leopold said. “What’s revving us up for this game is just another opportunity to play high school basketball again. We don’t want this to end, we are all so close and want to hold on to it for as long as possible, and this game is giving us that opportunity to play again and make more memories.”

One memory will be another long bus ride. Friday will be the Panthers’ third straight state playoff trip — emphasis on the trip. If the team thought bus drives to Kennedy Catholic and West Allegheny were far, wait until they see how long it takes them to pull into Milton Hershey.

Franklin Regional will travel 200 miles to play the state opener. Lower Dauphin is 5.2 miles from Milton Hershey.

Last year, the WPIAL runner-up Panthers opened against nearby rival Highlands at Fox Chapel.

“It’s another road game for us and a home game for them,” Scorpion said. “Moon had a home game at West A, too. We just have to be ready. Penn Hills will be there too, so we’ll have some other local guys with us.”

Penn Hills (20-4) plays Muhlenberg (18-9) at 5 p.m. Friday at Milton Hershey.

Franklin Regional had a cold third quarter against Moon but is looking for a crisper, more complete four quarters against Lower Dauphin, which has three players over 6-foot-4.

“We have to execute better on the offensive end,” Leopold said.

Said Scorpion: “Sometimes bigger teams are at a disadvantage. We’ll try to pressure them and make them run the floor. They’ll probably zone us, so we’ll have to box out and keep them off the glass.”

The Panthers know a little something about second-chance opportunities.

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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