Franklin Regional boys look to build on flashes of excellence

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | 6:43 PM


Franklin Regional is looking for more consistency, start to finish, end to end.

“We want to string together good possessions, string together more stops and string together more wins,” Panthers coach Jesse Reed said.

Last year, the Panthers (7-14, 5-7 Section 3) did not win more than two games in a row. They lost their final three and missed out on the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs by a tiebreaker to end a seven-year postseason streak.

But Reed saw flashes of how his team can play, and, with a nucleus to build around, he sees potential in a group that has size and skill.

When practice opens Friday, he’ll look to rekindle the positive vibes.

“We did have a good stretch, though, where we won five of seven and started to build some momentum,” Reed said. “We started to pick it up on the defensive end, and guys started to get into some rhythm.”

A pair of senior starters return to set the pace in 6-foot-3 Jake Kimmich and big man Max Leven, a matchup problem for teams at 6-8.

“Jake and Max bring that leadership,” Reed said. “Jake is steady for us. With Max, you can’t teach that size. His footwork and hands have gotten better. He has the intangibles.”

Junior Cam Rowell could be one of the top scorers in the section. The 6-5 guard averaged 12.2 points and complemented standout Caden Smith, the Trib Westmoreland’s male athlete of the year who moved on to the Pitt football team.

“Cam is 6-5 and can get to the rim,” Reed said. “We want to put him in positions to be a playmaker for us.”

Junior Fin Hutchison was the sixth man last year, a pure-shooting guard who can spark scoring runs.

Hutchison had 40 3-pointers as a sophomore. He, too, will see an elevated offensive role.

The same goes for junior guard Cooper Rankin, who saw quality minutes off the bench.

Senior Jalen Russell also saw varsity time and should fit into the rotation, while junior Colin Masten, sophomore Connor Crossey and junior Zach Bleming could have roles for the Panthers.

“There is a plethora of guys,” Reed said. “They all worked hard in the offseason to get better. We’ll make some tweaks more to fit our personnel, instead of (forcing) a system. You want to showcase what your guys do well.”

Franklin Regional saw Penn Hills and Woodland Hills leave its section, but Penn-Trafford comes on board to join Gateway, Kiski Area, Latrobe and McKeesport.

The Panthers showed last year they could push the tempo or grind to a half-court stop when needed. Reed is willing to adjust accordingly, based on matchups, hot hands and trends.

“It’s about our competitive level,” Reed said. “We need to compete every possession, a full 32 minutes. If we do that, we have a chance to win some games.”

Reed added former Plum and Saint Vincent forward Austin Dedert to the coaching staff. Dedert played with another former Bearcat in Mike Simmons, another assistant for the Panthers.

Reed was a grad assistant when the pair played in Latrobe.

At a glance

Coach: Jesse Reed

Last year’s record: 7-14 (5-7 Section 3-5A)

Returning starters: Jake Kimmich (Sr., G), Max Leven (Sr., C), Cam Rowell, (Jr., G)

Top newcomers: Fin Hutchison (Jr., G), Colin Masten (Jr., G), Cooper Rankin (Jr., G), Jalen Russell, (Sr., G)

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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