Franklin Regional boys use diligent defense to get off to fast start

Saturday, December 17, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Jesse Reed was a prolific scorer in high school and college, so when he started coaching, he figured he would have offensive-minded teams that ran the floor nonstop and finished breaks with layups and highlight dunks.

“Hey, I thought we’d run and gun to be honest,” Reed said. “Who knew I would be talking about defense this much?”

Steals and blocks are suddenly gaining greater value in Reed’s book.

The second-year Franklin Regional boys basketball coach has faith that his team can run, but he has seen more from the Panthers on the defensive end and that has suited him just fine after a 4-0 start.

“We’re getting full effort from our guys for 32 minutes,” Reed said. “I feel like we’re competing more and we’re locking in defensively. That is leading to offense for us.”

The Panthers advanced to the championship of their annual Mike Rettger Tournament — in its 19th year — after defeating Carlynton, 59-41.

They claimed the title with a 61-33 win over West Mifflin in the championship game.

The tournament performances came after shutdown wins over Connellsville (55-21) and Greensburg Central Catholic (48-34) — Reed’s alma mater — in the Hempfield Tip-off Tournament.

“We’re learning the importance of competing on the defensive end,” said Reed, who also played at Saltsburg before a college career at Division I American. “They’re playing hard, so there isn’t that big jump to adapt to what teams are doing.”

The Panthers have sent a steady dose of man-to-man defense at opponents.

They shut out a strong GCC team in the first quarter, and senior guard Jake Kimmich helped to contain GCC standout guard Tyree Turner.

“It wasn’t pretty. It was 13-7 at the half,” Reed said. “But we did a good job of taking away some things they like to do.”

Junior guard Cam Rowell, who had a 21-point game against Carlynton, said it is no accident that defense has been the team’s bread and butter so far.

He was named the Rettger MVP, while Rankin was an all-tournament selection.

Rankin had 14 points and Rowell added 13 in the title game.

“We need to get better at rotating and helping, but we’re working on it,” Rowell said. “We’ve been strong defensively so far.”

The Panthers also are showing a long bench. They have used up to 10 players at times.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


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