St. Ledger’s last-second layup lifts South Fayette over Franklin Regional

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Monday, February 17, 2020 | 11:13 PM


As South Fayette brought the basketball up the floor in the closing seconds, its season on the line and elimination perhaps one unlucky bounce away, the Lions had an air of calmness about them.

It was like they had been here before. That’s because they have.

Close finishes are nothing new to the sixth-seeded Lions, who saw a game come down to the final possession for the eighth time this season.

For the fifth time on such an occasion, they came out on top — just like they drew it up.

Junior Kade St. Ledger caught a pass on the low block, turned toward the paint, hesitated slightly and banked in a layup with 4.8 seconds remaining to lift South Fayette to a 48-46 victory over No. 11 Franklin Regional on Monday night in a WPIAL Class 5A first-round playoff game at Peters Township.

South Fayette (16-7), which has had 13 games decided by single digits — eight by three points or less — advances to play No. 3 Mars (17-5) in the quarterfinals Friday.

Still with some hope, Franklin Regional (11-12) inbounded with 3.7 seconds to go but turned the ball over on a travel near midcourt, and the Lions ran out the clock.

“This was like another one of our section games the way it played out,” South Fayette coach Dave Mislan said. “We know we can rely on our three seniors in those kind of situations. They have been through it before.”

The Panthers tied it at 46-46 on two free throws by senior Logan Summerhill with 28.7 seconds left.

But South Fayette, which spent much of the night shooting 3-pointers — it made nine 3s to Franklin Regional’s seven — ran a patient set for the final difference.

“The same set we worked on (earlier in the day). We knew it was coming,” Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. “We weren’t able to stop it. I thought we had the better of the play in the second half, but there were multiple opportunities to go up six or seven. Multiple opportunities to push out our lead. We just couldn’t put them away.”

Senior Joe Alcorn passed to sophomore Brandon Jakiela on the wing. He, in turn, lobbed the ball to St. Ledger, who squeezed in behind a defender and made the go-ahead basket.

“Our seniors are pretty clutch in those situations,” St. Ledger said. “Coach is good at keeping us calm. We have had experience being down one or two in the closing seconds of the game, and we always come out on top.”

Leading 44-43, Franklin Regional began to unravel a bit. It missed three straight layups and turned it over on a backcourt violation.

St. Ledger knocked in a 3 from the wing with 1:23 to go for a 46-44 South Fayette lead.

Sophomore Caden Smith made an unbelievable halfcourt heave right after St. Ledger’s layup, with 2.5 seconds (time was then added back to the clock), but it didn’t count because Franklin Regional had called a timeout before the shot.

“Our kids played hard and left it all out there,” Scorpion said. “It’s just so tough to see it end this way. I really thought we had a shot with this team.”

Alcorn, Connor Mislan and Jakiela scored 11 points apiece for South Fayette. St. Ledger scored eight.

Summerhill and junior Luke Kimmich had 13 to lead the Panthers, who were held to two field goals and six points in the fourth.

“I think we were fortunate to get a turnover from them on their last possession,” St. Ledger said. “I think after that we pretty much knew it was over. Our confidence is through the roof.”

Thanks to some accurate 3-point shooting, Franklin Regional built a 27-20 lead in the second quarter before the Lions ended the half with an 8-2 run to get within 29-28 at the break.

Senior guard Andrew Franklin beat the second quarter buzzer with a layup.

The Panthers made five 3s, two by Kimmich, in the first 16 minutes.

A 10-3 lead by the Panthers gave them a 40-39 advantage heading to the fourth.

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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