Kiski Area boys basketball shows killer instinct in win over Franklin Regional

Friday, December 17, 2021 | 10:11 PM

Kiski Area guard Isaiah Gonzalez had to leave the game briefly because he cut his lip and some blood dripped onto the court.

He and his teammates were out for blood from the tip in the Section 3-5A opener.

Despite a fourth-quarter surge by host Franklin Regional, the Cavaliers build a double-digit lead won a foul fest, 60-48, on Friday night in Murrysville.

Gonzalez tied a game high with 19 points, while Lebryn Smith scored 11 and James Pearson added 10 for the Cavaliers, who improved to 4-0, 1-0 in section with all of the wins coming on the road.

The teams combined for 62 free throws.

Kiski Area let stops on defense lead to offense, clogging the lane with a 2-3 zone and making Franklin Regional (1-4, 0-1) attempt tough, contested shots.

“That was our game plan,” Cavaliers coach Corey Smith said. “We wanted to contain Caden (Smith) and Cam (Rowell) and slow them down. We wanted to get points in transition. That’s how we want to play.”

Franklin Regional slowly adjusted to the defense but missed a number of high-percentage shots around the rim and the Cavaliers took advantage.

Kiski Area averaged 64 points across its first three games and put up 81 in a win over Derry (81-45). This was one of the team’s better defensive efforts so far, though, at least through three quarters when the Cavaliers held the Panthers to 20 points — just two in the third.

It was 35-20 after three quarters.

Franklin Regional erupted for 28 points in the fourth, making 15 of 18 free throws — 20 of 29 for the game. But it could only cut a 15-point lead to seven, at 41-34, after an and-1 and a steal-and-score by Smith.

Kiski Area quickly rebuilt the advantage to double digits as Gonzalez converted a basket and foul shot to make it 48-35 with 3:42 left.

Gonzalez’s pull-up jumper with 2:08 left made it 53-40.

The teams combined for one field goal inside the final two minutes as they exchanged a boatload of free throws.

“We missed a ton of layups,” Franklin Regional coach Jesse Reed said. “We were getting good shots but missing them. And we let them get a ton of easy looks. It’s not easy to play from behind like that.”

Kiski Area made 22 of 33 free throws, including 13 of 15 in the fourth when it sealed a game it led since early in the opening quarter. The Cavaliers had 25 points in the fourth.

“Basketball is all about runs,” Corey Smith said. “We were happy to play that well into the fourth, but we had to stay humble. We had to stick to our game plan and finish.”

Franklin Regional, looking to bounce back from a 70-38 loss to Baldwin in the Mike Rettger Tournament on Tuesday, got 19 points from Cam Rowell and 12 from Caden Smith. The duo combined for 17 in the fourth, nine from Smith.

The rest of the team combined for 15 points.

“We can’t be aggressive for only eight minutes,” Reed said. “We have to start faster and keep up the intensity. Kiski Area was aggressive and they attacked.”

The Cavaliers pieced together a 24-18 lead at the half as Gonzalez scored seven points in the second quarter.

Rowell had 11 of the Panthers’ 18 points in the opening 16 minutes.

Kiski Area broke an eight-game losing streak against Franklin Regional.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

Tags: ,

More Basketball

Freeport girls coach goes out with a win as West sweeps East at Cager Classic
Archbishop Wood stops South Fayette in PIAA Class 5A girls title game
Playoff run, WPIAL championship build legacy for Penn Hills players
Norwin notebook: Fox Chapel ends hockey team’s season
North Hills boys basketball season marked by ups, downs