Hempfield wins low-scoring game vs. Franklin Regional

Saturday, February 20, 2021 | 6:13 PM

Hempfield boys basketball coach Bill Swan said he didn’t know what to expect from a “Saturday soiree” at Franklin Regional.

A soiree refers to a fancy evening affair. You wouldn’t call Hempfield’s latest victory fancy, but the Saturday afternoon nonsection matchup will pass as another tune-up for the upcoming WPIAL playoffs.

Behind another committee-like effort, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 6A worked its way around Class 5A Franklin Regional for its sixth straight victory, 48-36.

Like many of their games, this win was more about doing the little things soundly than vanity for the Spartans (11-3), who connected on eight 3—pointers.

The finishing touch for the Spartans was a 10-0 run in the fourth that saw them hold the Panthers scoreless for six minutes.

“We want to work on some things in our last three games,” Swan said. “I want to see us get the high seed we earned. We really made some beautiful cuts and some crisp passes. They played a matchup zone on us, so I’d like to think that had something to do with the score.”

Franklin Regional, which only led briefly in the first quarter, fell to 6-5. It was the first of two games for the Panthers, who were set to travel to play 6A No. 1 Upper St. Clair on Saturday night.

They could end up playing seven games in nine days, including matchups with the No. 1, 2, 3 and 5 ranked teams in 6A.

“We gave them wide-open 3s early, and we had some terrible offensive possessions,” Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. “Hempfield is very patient with the ball. We were forcing things.”

Hempfield led by 12 early in the third quarter after junior guard Joey Fiedor scored off a steal. The Panthers cut it to five, but senior forward Niheim Lewis scored on a drive and junior Sean Gordon put back a miss to give the Spartans a 36-27 lead through three quarters.

Senior Jake Nader came off the bench and hit a pair of 3s early in the fourth, and 6-foot-8 sophomore Max Leven scored three points to close the gap to 38-36 with 6 minutes, 12 seconds to play.

But after Nader hit his second 3, the Panthers offense dried up. Senior Mike Hosni hit a 3, Fiedor fired in another one from deep and Hosni made a layup to make it 46-36 with three minutes left.

“We cut it to two and then didn’t score for six minutes,” Scorpion said. “It was turnover, 3, turnover, 3, and boom, game over.”

Fiedor led Hempfield with 11 points, and Lewis had 10. Balanced scoring is nothing new to Hempfield, which has had different leading scorers all season.

“I don’t have plays for guys like we did in the past,” Swan said. “It’s now equal opportunity.”

Hempfield used some clock with just under a minute to play, and senior Christian Zilli capped the scoring with two foul shots with 1:39 left.

“We moved the ball well, and our defense was good,” the 6-3 Lewis said. “We can still play better as a team.”

Senior forward Kadyn Hannah led the Panthers with 12 points with all of his scoring coming in the first three quarters. Scorpion sat some players to save their legs for the second game of the day.

“We played 10 guys,” he said. “Nader has been out and is just betting back. And Max is just getting going. This was a great opportunity to get some guys minutes.”

Hempfield build a 27-16 lead by halftime after a 9-9 opening quarter.

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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