Franklin Regional edges Norwin at Mike Rettger Memorial tournament

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Monday, December 11, 2017 | 9:51 PM


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Franklin Regional wants to win its own boys basketball tournament, and after beating the team that prevented it from doing so a year ago, the Panthers will get their chance.

The Panthers clamped down on defense and rallied to run their record to 3-0 with a 52-44 victory over Norwin in the 15th annual Mike Rettger Memorial tournament Monday night in Murrysville.

The Panthers used a 12-1 run in the final 4 minutes, 30 seconds and held defending champion Norwin (2-1) without a field goal in the fourth quarter to take the tourney opener.

Norwin won last year's Rettger final 75-71 over the host Panthers.

"We talked about playing defense and how important it is," Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. "I told them, whatever gets you to defend, you have to do it sooner. And they figured it out. I'm glad they did. ... I hope they keep doing it and doing it sooner because I don't have much hair or a voice left."

The Panthers, who outscored Norwin, 15-6, in the final quarter, will meet Westinghouse (3-0) in the championship game at 7:30 Tuesday night.

Scorpion, a Franklin Regional alum, said it was special for him to win as a coach in the Rettger tournament.

"It's nice to be back here to honor Mike, and I learned a ton from him," Scorpion said. "When I was in seventh and eighth grade I used to come work out all the time, and Mike would look out for me."

Rettger was a former Panthers player who died in 2003.

Hunter Stonecheck led the way with 14 points, while Nick Leopold had nine and Mike Bartolacci and Nate Leopold added eight each.

Franklin Regional overcame a slow start to take a 24-23 lead into halftime. It began the second quarter with an 8-0 run, with 6-foot-7 Pat O'Toole and Stonecheck scoring inside before Nick Leopold put in a layup off a steal.

Neither team could gain separation in the third. Jayden Walker's traditional 3-point play gave the Knights a 38-35 advantage.

Norwin led 41-37 before the Panthers made their deciding move.

Nate Leopold scored a layup in transition, taking a touch-pass from his brother, Nick, and drew the foul with 3:58 remaining. The 3-point play made it 45-43.

Stonecheck's free throws gave the Panthers a 49-44 advantage with 1:45 left.

"After about six minutes left, they only scored three points and we went on a big run," Stonecheck said. "There was a timeout and coach got on the seniors and said, this is what we're here for and we have to step up. We knew we couldn't blow this game because we were better than this team."

With Norwin struggling to get a field goal, Bartolacci made two more free throws and Nick Leopold made one to end the scoring inside the final minute.

"We lost that game because of two things," Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. "We got sloppy and we didn't get back in run-outs. We let them get some easy layups."

Josh Ratesic led Norwin with 20 points and Jayden Walker added 12.

"That was the first time we saw a zone press this year," Washowich said. "We have to do a better job of making sure we're in the right position and not get caught up in the moment so much."

Nate Leopold suffered a cut to his lip in the first half and had to change into a clean jersey.

Stonecheck said the win adds a checkmark to the seniors' bucket list.

"It goes back to elementary school ... we have never beaten Norwin before," Stonecheck said. "We knew we could beat them this year. We had to overcome playing badly tonight."

Scorpion will go against a former college teammate in the finals. He played with Westinghouse coach Eugene Wilson at Pitt-Johnstown.

"He is one of my really good friends," Scorpion said. "It's nice to be able to coach against him in a tournament like this."

Westinghouse, led by 6-11 senior James Ellis, defeated Monessen, 86-66, in Monday's opener. Ellis had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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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