Franklin Regional boys grind out victory over Latrobe

Tuesday, January 10, 2023 | 10:12 PM

To win at Latrobe on Tuesday night, Franklin Regional had to slow down, then grind down the Wildcats.

A victory had to be earned.

The Panthers had to be patient with the lead and play smart basketball down the stretch.

They succeeded as three players scored in double figures on the way to a 52-39 win in a physical Section 3-5A boys basketball matchup played mostly in the halfcourt.

“In this section, teams don’t give an inch,” Panthers coach Jesse Reed said. “Our guys had to keep their composure, work the clock and make their foul shots. We had to take what they gave us.”

Cooper Rankin had 13 points, 10 in the second half, including 7 of 13 free throws. Cam Rowell added 12 points, and Max Leven chipped in 11 — all in the second half — as the Panthers (9-3, 3-0) won for the fourth straight time.

“We knew this would be a tough game,” Rankin said. “We hadn’t won here in four years. It was a dog battle.”

Jake Kimmich added nine points, six coming in the fourth quarter.

Latrobe (4-7, 0-3), now on a five-game losing streak, cut a 12-point lead to six with 6 minutes, 16 seconds remaining on two free throws by JaTawn Williams.

It was 39-33 after a pair of foul shots by Alex Tatsch.

But Franklin Regional settled in offensively and made extra passes to eat away the clock and force fouls.

“We slowed down and ran our flex offense,” Rankin said. “We worked it around to get layups.”

After holding the Wildcats to five points in the third quarter, Franklin Regional took a 33-25 lead into the fourth.

That allowed the Panthers to rebuild a double-digit lead. Leven scored on several backdoor layups, Kimmich made a driving layup at 1:59 and Kimmich and Rankin made 7 of 8 free throws inside the final 1:07.

The Panthers were 21 for 29 from the foul line. Rowell was 6 for 6.

“Latrobe played their butts off,” Reed said. “They try to get you out of your rhythm and speed you up. It’s hard to get into a flow with them.”

Latrobe guard Landon Butler needed 21 points to reach 1,000 for his career, but foul trouble had a hand in keeping him from reaching the milestone.

He finished with 12 points and four fouls as the Wildcats tried to rally late.

Just like Friday against Kiski Area, points were sparse for the Panthers early.

Franklin Regional led 7-6 after the first quarter, but Latrobe took a 20-18 edge into the half.

“There are just a lot of bad dudes who love to compete in this section,” Reed said. “Nobody is going to give up anything easy.”

Max Butler added eight points, and Tyler Mondock had seven for Latrobe. The Wildcats made 15 of 20 foul shots.

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

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