Penn-Trafford boys pass test against Franklin Regional

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021 | 11:05 PM


Penn-Trafford is known for playing close basketball games and competing with some of the best in the WPIAL.

Franklin Regional has a similar reputation for playing anybody, anytime.

So, when the teams met Wednesday night, the last thing they wanted to hear was that they weren’t playing for anything.

That is like an insult to coaches like Doug Kelly and Steve Scorpion.

“We wanted to play our game and work on a couple things,” Warriors senior guard Chase Vecchio said. “But we wanted to win, too.”

Out to take momentum into the WPIAL playoffs next week, the Warriors pieced together their fifth straight victory, building an 11-point lead late in the fourth before holding back Franklin Regional, 51-46, in a nonsection postseason tune-up.

Fifth-ranked Penn-Trafford (12-5) will be the No. 4 seed in the Class 6A playoffs, and Franklin Regional (7-7) is No. 12 in 5A.

The teams knew their matchups well before tip, but that didn’t stop them from scouting for one another as they squeezed in one last game before the postseason heats up.

“We’re glad to get the 4 and we think we deserve it, but now we have to go out and execute and back it up,” said Kelly, who used to be coach at Franklin Regional and still works in the district. “Franklin Regional gave us a great game. Coach Scorpion has done a lot of good things with that program. Best of luck to them in the playoffs.”

The Warriors will host North Hills on Tuesday night.

Franklin Regional, which hosts Armstrong at noon Saturday, stayed close despite missing two starters, senior Kadyn Hannah (ankle) and junior Caden Smith (illness). Both are expected to play Saturday.

“This was a very good, high-level game between two good teams that played really hard,” Scorpion said. “This was a very good test for us. Doug does a great job with his team.”

Franklin Regional took a 26-21 lead into halftime, ending the half with a 9-0 run, including a pair of baskets from freshman Cam Rowell, who scored a game-high 17 points.

Rowell had 10 in the first half.

Both teams played a number of reserves.

“Rowell and sophomore Jake Kimmich played well for us,” Scorpion said. “They’re young guys playing in a tough road game.”

A mostly nondescript third quarter ended with a 34-34 score after the Warriors hit three 3-pointers, two from junior Nick Crum, and outscored the Panthers, 13-8.

Gradually, Penn-Trafford widened the gap and began to resemble itself.

The short and long of it to Scorpion, though, happened late in the third and early in the fourth when the Warriors went on a decisive run. The 17-3 surge stretched its advantage to 48-37 with 2:04 left and gave them enough breathing room to get the win.

“The difference was us turning it over on nine straight possessions,” Scorpion said. “It started at about the six-minute mark. I thought both teams defended well and played well on both ends of the floor.”

Vecchio converted a 3-point play, junior forward Ben Myers made consecutive layups and Vecchio finished after a nice feed from senior Josh Kapcin to push it to 11.

Kapcin finished with 16, and Myers added 10. Crum chipped in eight and Vecchio seven.

Franklin Regional didn’t let up, and Scorpion kept coaching.

Senior Luke Kimmich hit a 3, and Rowell made consecutive shots to make it 50-44. He could not convert two free throws, though, and by the time Kimmich made a pair of foul shots to cut it to 51-46, it was too late.

Rowell and Kimmich combined for all 12 of the Panthers’ points in the fourth.

“We knew Franklin Regional was going to play us tough, even if they didn’t have two starters,” Kelly said. “Everything we do is important, and we can learn from it.”

Penn-Trafford started all seniors to suit the occasion. Eight Warriors scored, including senior big man Tyler Campbell, who connected on a 3 to ignite cheers all around.

“That was our special five,” Kelly said. “I wish it could have been six, but Silas Koscho is out with a wrist injury. He missed football season, too. We feel for him because this is his senior year. We have such an unbelievable senior group. They’re so articulate — kids with big hearts and a great work ethic.”

Franklin Regional was going to play 6A No. 2 seed Fox Chapel on Thursday but canceled the matchup to rest and prep for Saturday’s opener. The Panthers played three of the top four seeds in 6A over the last five days.

Penn-Trafford’s winning streak includes a 73-66 win over 5A No. 1-ranked Chartiers Valley.

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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