Gateway holds on to beat Franklin Regional in a first-place showdown

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Friday, January 13, 2023 | 10:16 PM


Franklin Regional boys basketball coach Jesse Reed took Friday’s loss hard.

The first-year coach didn’t realize his team had a timeout left during the final 9 seconds and let Gateway run out the clock.

Gateway held on to defeat Franklin Regional, 52-50, in a WPIAL Section 3-5A first-place showdown. Gateway is 9-3 (4-0), and Franklin Regional falls to 9-4 (3-1).

The Panthers rallied from an 11-point deficit (48-37) early in the fourth quarter and pulled to within two on a basket by junior Cam Rowell with 9.1 seconds left.

But Franklin Regional failed to call timeout, and Gateway ran out the clock.

“This is on me,” Reed said. “I didn’t give our players a chance to get a steal or make a play to win it. Our team was very resilient, down 10 with three minutes left on the road and found a way to get it to a one possession game.

“In the second half we missed some shots that we normally make and had some balls that didn’t bounce our way. Credit to Gateway, they took it to us and controlled the tempo and pace.”

Franklin Regional, behind the driving ability of Cooper Rankin, led after a quarter 14-13. Rankin scored six of his 12 points in the opening quarter.

Gateway, which finished the opening quarter with a basket by Dallas Harper, opened the second quarter on an 11-2 run to open a 24-16 lead. Taili Thompson hit three 3-pointers in the quarter to spark the Gators. He finished with 22 points.

But Franklin Regional stayed close and trailed 33-29 at halftime as Rowell, who finished with a game-high 29 points, scored 11 in the paint.

“It was a very good win for us,” Gateway coach Alvis Rogers said. “We hung on, and we gutted it out.”

Thompson was a big reason Gateway was able to keep Franklin Regional at bay.

“He’s one of our better players,” Rogers said. “He’s a tough mismatch because he has the ability to make shots outside. We needed every point that he gave us.

“Our defense stepped it up in the second quarter and we started to get easy baskets, and that’s what we rely on: our defense.”

Gateway was able to maintain a comfortable lead into the fourth quarter as Franklin Regional couldn’t make outside shots. So the Panthers decided to drive to the basket for easier attempts.

“We got sloppy down the stretch,” Rogers said. “We were up 11, and we started making silly mistakes and let them back in. When it got to six, they seized the momentum.”

Rowell and Jake Kimmich hit big baskets for the Panthers in the comeback. But at the end, it just wasn’t enough.

Despite the loss, Reed was proud of the team’s effort.

“It kills me that I had a chance to stop the clock and didn’t,” Reed said. “It was a hard-fought battle. We just didn’t make enough shots.

“We didn’t give up. We could have easily mailed it in when they were trying to hold the ball. We made plays when we needed them, but I feel like I let them down at the end of the night.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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