Westmoreland basketball notebook: Franklin Regional braces for ‘Zion Williamson of high school basketball’

By: HSSN Staff
Thursday, January 10, 2019 | 8:15 PM

Franklin Regional junior center Johnny O’Toole knows he and his teammates cannot get caught standing around. They can’t let themselves become awestruck and simply watch Oscar Tshiebwe play.

They have to try to defend against the madly talented basketball standout — a tall task for any opponent that faces Tshiebwe and mighty Kennedy Catholic.

Franklin Regional will travel to Hermitage at 4:30 Saturday afternoon to face the Golden Eagles (5-3), the No. 2-ranked Class 6A team in the state. Tshiebwe is a 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward who has committed to play at West Virginia.

“Big O,” as many call him, averages 23 points and already is being projected as a future NBA lottery pick.

O’Toole is 6-7, 260, but even he knows facing Tshiebwe, a five-star prospect, will be a daunting challenge.

“He’s like the Zion Williamson of high school basketball,” O’Toole said. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to go against a player of his level.”

Franklin Regional (9-3) has a tough schedule, one from which coach Steve Scorpion does not back down.

“It’s fun to go against a team like Kennedy,” Scorpion said. “As a high school player I know I would have loved to go against a player like Oscar. I want our kids to look back when they’re in their dorm rooms watching TNT or maybe 10, 15 years from now and say, ‘Man, I played against that guy.’

“We schedule tough games like this to make us better for the playoffs. Our goal isn’t to beat Kennedy Catholic, it’s to win our section and go from there.”

Kennedy also features two other Division I recruits in Mateo Austin (Duquesne) and Mattia Acunzo (Toledo).

“We just have to stay focused,” O’Toole said. “They’re one of the best in the state. It’s great experience for us.”

Game of runs

Hempfield and Penn-Trafford played a mostly underwhelming first half Tuesday , and Penn-Trafford appeared headed for a blowout win. But Hempfield awakened in the fourth quarter and nearly came all the way back from a 22-point deficit. The Spartans had a chance to win in the closing seconds but fell short, 49-47.

Talk about a game of runs. Consider: For the first 19 minutes, 52 seconds, Penn-Trafford outscored Hempfield, 38-16. For the last 12:48, it was Hempfield 31, Penn-Trafford 11.

Milestone night

Tuesday’s 77-48 win over United brought with it a pair of milestones for the Ligonier Valley boys.

Senior Marrek Paola reached the 1,500-point mark for his career, and junior Michael Marinchak hit 1,000 points for his career. The dynamic duo — and the emergence of freshman guard Matthew Marinchak — has the Rams a favorite to repeat as District 6 Class 3A champion.

Paola was nearing the school career scoring record of 1,515 points set by Adam Stinogle in 2004.

Paola commits

First-year Ligonier Valley coach John Berger confirmed Paola, his 6-foot-8 forward, verbally committed to play at Seton Hill.

Paola had interest from a number of Division II and III schools but chose to stay close to home.


Friday’s game at Yough will be a reunion of sorts for Freeport first-year coach Wayne Greiser. He coached Yough for four seasons until 2014. … Latrobe’s boys have beaten Penn-Trafford 11 straight times. … Through Tuesday, Hempfield had the lowest points-allowed average in WPIAL 6A boys at 51.5. … Latrobe’s girls have played two homes games so far. But they will have a six-game homestand beginning Monday. … The Southmoreland girls are allowing a Class 4A-best 34.8 points a game.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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