Luke Kimmich, defense spark Franklin Regional to win over Hampton

Friday, January 17, 2020 | 10:26 PM

Luke Kimmich was starting for Franklin Regional earlier in the basketball season.

But the junior guard has changed roles of late, taking over the sixth-man duties for the Panthers.

It’s a role he accepted because he understood why the change was made.

“We have been bringing him off the bench to give us that spark,” Panthers coach Steve Scorpion said. “He has been playing better on both ends since.”

Kimmich tied a game high with 16 points and Franklin Regional tightened its defensive play in crunch time to earn a Section 3-5A split with Hampton, edging the Talbots, 45-42, on Friday night in Murrysville.

While it wasn’t quite suitable for framing, the Panthers (7-9, 4-4) and their coach were proud of the way they ground out the victory.

They led wire-to-wire despite Hampton (8-6, 6-2) continually closing the gap and made several key defensive stops in the fourth quarter to pick up their third straight victory.

Hampton had won three in a row.

Now, the Panthers have four wins in five games.

“Like Coach tells us, ‘It doesn’t matter how you win. Just find a way,’” said Kimmich, who made four 3-pointers. “We gave (Hampton) a chance, but we kept it together.”

After Hampton’s Seth Koontz hit one of his three 3-pointers in the fourth to cut it to 39-37, 6-foot-4 junior forward Kayden Hannah pinned a shot off the backboard and Kimmich followed with a steal.

The defensive play took away Hampton’s fast break opportunities.

“Those were big plays,” Scorpion said. “It shows how important the little things are. It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, it’s a win. The last two weeks, our kids are playing harder and we’re getting better.”

Senior 6-7 forward Johnny O’Toole added a block as the Panthers preserved control.

Senior Logan Summerhill added 13 points and O’Toole had 10 for the Panthers. The rest of the team combined for six points.

But this game wasn’t just about offense.

“We work on defense every day,” Kimmich said. “We work on hustling back on D and that helped us tonight.”

Kimmich and O’Toole each made a pair of free throws to put the Panthers ahead by six, 45-39, but the Talbots wouldn’t go quietly.

Koontz connected again on a deep three from the wing with 13 seconds remaining to make it 45-42.

After a Franklin Regional timeout, Panthers sophomore Caden Smith attempted a free throw, but the ball bounced upward and hit a wire, which wiped out the shot.

Hampton regained possession and called timeout with 6.5 seconds left.

Senior Colby Mignogna, who led the Talbots with 16 points and eight rebounds, caught the ball in the corner off a set play and fired from three, but his shot missed and Franklin Regional held on.

“Plays like (Franklin Regional made) were part of the entire game,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said. “We didn’t play strong the whole time. We had too many unforced turnovers. We had opportunities in transition but didn’t finish. I give our kids credit, though, to be able to have a shot at the end.”

This game was similar to one the teams played earlier in the season when Hampton won, 42-38.

Play picked up in the first quarter after a painfully slow start. O’Toole had six points to spark the Panthers to a 9-4 lead, but Hampton freshman Brennan Murray hit a three before the buzzer to cut the deficit to 14-13.

Kimmich made two threes in the second quarter and had 11 points in the first half to help the Panthers stay in front.

His first three made it 25-19, and the second stretched to 28-23 at the half.

Summerhill scored seven in the second quarter for the Panthers.

Hannah made two fouls shots to make it 34-29 late in the third before Kimmich connected on a buzzer-beating three to put the Panthers ahead, 37-31, heading to the fourth.

Junior Quinn Morrow added 10 points for the Talbots and Koontz had nine.

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

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