Mars boys outlast Franklin Regional to claim 1st WPIAL Class 5A championship

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Friday, March 2, 2018 | 10:33 PM


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Mars showed in its biggest game of the season — and arguably program history — that it is a lot more than just Robby Carmody, the senior star headed to Notre Dame.

With Carmody “fightin'” flu-like symptoms and not quite himself, the top-seeded Fightin' Planets had other players step up in a 54-44 win over No. 3 Franklin Regional in the WPIAL Class 5A championship Friday night at Pitt's Petersen Events Center.

“That's why we play that tough schedule, to get us ready for games like this,” Mars coach Rob Carmody said. “Our other guys believe in one another. It shows how much our other guys have grown. We're more than Robby. He had one of his worst games. But our other guys picked him up.”

The younger Carmody, a versatile, 6-foot-4 guard, came in as the WPIAL's leading scorer at 33.2 points per game and has over 2,000 career points.

Mars (21-4) won its first championship in its first trip to the finals as Andrew Recchia scored 14 points, Cade Hetzler added 13 and Robby Carmody had 11 and 14 rebounds for the Fightin' Planets.

Carmody was slow getting back down the floor and was wheezing afterward, visibly fatigued. But it was like he received a jolt of Vitamin C when he was handed the trophy and held it up to the fans.

“A better parent might sit their kid out,” coach Carmody said in jest. “He needs a solid week of rest.

“If it's December, we lose that game. This shows how far our guys have come.”

Franklin Regional was pleased with its defensive effort, particularly on limiting Carmody. But the offensive production did not match, especially down the stretch.

“They had four other guys make plays for them, and that's why they're holding the trophy,” Panthers coach Steve Scorpion said.

Mars trailed 41-39 late in the third quarter but held Franklin Regional (20-5) to one field goal in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers, who lost their other two finals trips in 1996 and ‘97, only have one fourth-quarter field goal in three playoff games.

“That's on me,” Scorpion said. “I have to do a better job at the end. These kids have worked too hard to get here. I need to put them in a better position.”

Senior forward Hunter Stonecheck led Franklin Regional with 15 points and was the only player from his team in double figures. The Panthers made seven two-point field goals and five 3-pointers.

Franklin Regional scored its first fourth-quarter field goal of the playoffs when senior Nate Leopold made a layup early in the final frame. But Mars built a 52-44 lead after a layup by Hetzler and two free throws by Brandon Caruso.

Recchia's steal led to two free throws with 26 seconds to go for the final points.

Franklin Regional, which has relied on a suffocating defense throughout these playoffs with little concern as to how it looked playing that way, was outscored in the fourth, 11-3.

“That's what got us here,” Scorpion said. “We weren't gping to change (strategy).”

The Panthers scored 28 and 48 points in their two previous playoff wins.

“We knew how they played defensively,” coach Carmody said. “And like I said, playing all those tough teams on our schedule helped us adjust to that style quicker in games.”

Mars led 11-8 after one quarter and carried a 7-0 run into the second for a 15-8 lead. Hunter Stonecheck made consecutive shots, and Carmody followed with two of his own to keep the Planets up, 21-15.

The Panthers ran off seven straight points with senior Jake Rosenberg connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers to give them a 25-23 lead.

Mars led at the half, 26-25.

In the third, Stonecheck scored nine points to help the Panthers build a 35-28 advantage, but a 7-0 surge by Mars put the Planets ahead before they took a two-point lead into the fourth.

Carmody was called for a technical early in the quarter which helped jumpstart a 7-0 run by the Panthers.

“Franklin is such a good team,” coach Carmody said. “Our communities are very similar and we have similar types of kids. Nobody won or lost here today.”

Junior Nick Leopold added nine points for the Panthers.

Both teams move into the PIAA playoffs but both will see WPIAL opponents in the pre-slotted brackets.

Mars takes on Hampton while Franklin Regional gets Section 3 rival Highlands.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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

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