Girls basketball preview: Senior trio set to lead Franklin Regional into new section

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020 | 1:39 PM


When reflecting on last season, Franklin Regional girls basketball coach Anthony Kobus pointed out five losses in section play by seven points or less.

It was a product of having a young team with only one senior. Now the Panthers have a rotation of nearly a dozen girls who have varsity experience, and the goal is to take the lessons of those tight losses and turn them into victories.

Led by a trio of seniors in Maria Brush, Angel Kelly and Kathryn Nardo, Kobus believes he has the personnel to push the pace and open up the floor.

“Last year we kind of played a half-court game where we didn’t go up tempo at all,” Kobus said. “We want to try and push it a little more this year. We have a small group height-wise, so we just have to play a little differently. We only have two girls that are 6-foot or taller, and everyone else is a little smaller, but it’s good. We like the dynamic of the team. We feel like we have a solid 10 or 11 girls coming back that we feel can get the job done.”

Along with the three seniors, Franklin Regional returns a pair of juniors — Sydney Lindeman and Sydney Breitkreutz — who made starts a season ago.

Kobus said he has four or five sophomores he’s confident can play key minutes as well as some freshmen who could step in. Renee Baldy, who was on the WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up Franklin Regional volleyball team with Breitkreutz, has come out for the team for her senior year.

All five losses in section play by seven or fewer points came against teams that made the playoffs. Each one provided a lesson. One that stood out in particular for Kobus was at Plum where the Panthers built a 14-point lead but had four starters foul out in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs railed to win 47-43.

“They learned about executing down the stretch and details like making their foul shots,” Kobus said. “They saw what it was like to play in close games. Hopefully, the girls will take those experiences and build upon them.”

One area the Panthers are seeking improvement is shooting percentage after going 27% from the floor last year.

Kobus credited Kelly, Brush and Nardo for taking it upon themselves to organize some socially distanced team workouts at Boyce Park for the team in the early summer.

“When we got in the gym you could tell it helped a lot of them,” Kobus said. “They were making more shots and were more confident.

“A big thing for us is our senior leadership. They ran the workouts at Boyce Park and made sure the girls were going to open gyms. They took a lot more of a leadership role. It’s their last year, and they want to win.”

Realignment has Franklin Regional in Section 4-5A after spending the last two years in Section 2. Gateway, which also moved from Section 4 to Section 2, is the lone returning section opponent. Greensburg Salem, Latrobe, Penn Hills, Woodland Hills and McKeesport are new opponents.

The Panthers will have less travel after playing Armstrong, Hampton and Mars the last two years, which will be welcomed as well as the challenges of learning the intricacies of how each new opponent plays.

“The teams play differently in this section than the ones we were in the last two years,” Kobus said. “It’ll be an interesting section and should be a fun ride.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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