Franklin Regional boys give rude Class 5A welcome to Latrobe

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Friday, January 8, 2021 | 10:07 PM


Latrobe has been in the WPIAL’s largest classification since it began playing basketball decades ago. But the Wildcats got a humbling welcome to Class 5A when the covid-stalled season restarted Friday night.

The Wildcats, making their debut in the classification after dropping from 6A, struggled to string together offense and could not match host Franklin Regional’s tempo in a 68-38 loss in the teams’ opening game in Section 3 play before a sparse crowd in Murrysville.

Taller Franklin Regional (1-0, 1-0) used a 15-0 run to open the second quarter to set the runaway win in motion. In all, the Panthers outscored Latrobe in the quarter, 18-2, and limited the Wildcats to four field goals across the second and third quarters.

After trailing 19-18 after the first quarter, Franklin Regional held Latrobe (0-2, 0-1) to 19 points for the rest of the game.

“We came out aggressive in the first quarter and got to the basket,” Latrobe coach Brad Wetzel said. “But in the second, we were sluggish and stood around. We couldn’t get our full-court defense going because they had us in the halfcourt and we weren’t able to get much going offensively.”

Latrobe, coming off a rare down season (6-16) where the Wildcats missed the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2011-12, returns four starters but must negotiate a small lineup. The team does not have a player over 6-3.

Franklin Regional, 12-11 last season and a playoff team for the fifth straight year, brought back seven players with notable experience. In fact, that collection of seniors and juniors all started at one time or another last year.

Three players did not play for the Panthers, but their absences were not an issue because the Panthers got contributions from eight scorers. Senior 6-4 forward Kadyn Hannah scored 19 points, senior Luke Kimmich added 17 and junior Caden Smith added 13.

“The reason I think this team will be so good is because we all trust each other with the ball,” Hannah said. “My teammates got me the ball. It was them, not me. It was great to just be on the floor again.”

Coach Steve Scorpion wants his team to get back to a defense-first mindset and the Panthers took a solid first step in that direction.

“(Latrobe) wanted run and play fast so we knew we had to try and take that away,” Scorpion said. “We knew we had a size advantage, so we wanted to get the ball inside. We don’t have one guy who does all the scoring. A lot of our guys can score.”

And to think the Panthers were missing their starting center, 6-8 sophomore Max Leven, along with sixth man Jake Nader, a senior guard.

Latrobe, which had played in Class 4A up until 2016 when the WPIAL went to six classes, closed the gap to 15 early in the third. But Hannah scored six straight points and the Panthers ended the third on a 13-4 run to push the lead to 25.

“Kadyn works his butt off,” Scorpion said. “When we had that snowstorm, his dad told me Kadyn went out and shoveled the driveway so he could shoot around.”

The Wildcats opened the season Dec. 11 at Butler, falling 82-72 in a much more uptempo game. PIAA teams were shut down for three weeks by Gov. Tom Wolf until this past Monday when teams were allowed to practice again.

“We’ll get back to the drawing board,” Wetzel said. “We know teams are going to try to exploit our size.”

Sophomore Landon Butler led Latrobe Friday with 13 points.

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

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