Westmoreland boys basketball notebook: Huge game looms for Franklin Regional

Thursday, February 6, 2020 | 7:05 PM

At Franklin Regional, the thought of missing the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs is just that, a thought — and a bad one, at that.

Coach Steve Scorpion and the Panthers don’t plan on letting it become a reality.

The winner of Friday night’s Kiski Area (9-11, 6-7) at Franklin Regional (10-11, 7-6) game will clinch a WPIAL playoff berth in Section 3-5A.

Franklin Regional still can qualify with a loss and a Plum loss to Shaler. But a defeat would negate some the momentum gained from a 72-62 upset over No. 5 Shaler earlier this week.

Simply, that victory was gigantic for the Panthers.

“It’s means everything,” Franklin Regional senior swingman Logan Summerhill said of the win over the section-leading Titans. “This will give us that extra push to get into the playoffs and show everyone what kind of team we really are. I feel this win shows that we can compete with any team the WPIAL throws at us in playoffs.”

One more scenario can play out if Kiski Area and Plum win Friday. Kiski Area would advance because it would win a three-way tie against Franklin Regional and Plum.

“We have to take care of business Friday,” Summerhill said.

LV in title game

Ligonier Valley will go for its third straight Heritage Conference title Friday night when the Rams (20-2, 14-0) take on Homer-Center (13-6, 11-3) at 8 p.m. at IUP’s Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

It could be the final Heritage Conference title game in Ligonier Valley basketball history because the school will join the WPIAL in all sports in the fall, so the Rams want to go out on a high note. They also want to take momentum into the District 6 playoffs.

The Rams, who carry a 17-game winning streak into the final, powered past Homer-Center 15 days ago, 81-60, to clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. That win ended Homer-Center’s 10-game winning streak.

Seniors Michael Marinchak and Kyle Silk scored 22 points apiece, and sophomore Matthew Marinchak added 16.

“We need to start out faster than we have the last several games,” Ligonier Valley coach John Berger said. “Homer-Center is an experienced team and extremely well-coached. So a slow start, giving them any life, is something we want to avoid. If we get up and down with the speed we have, I think that we can hopefully wear them down on the bigger court.”

This will be the Rams’ fourth consecutive trip to the Heritage final.

Nusser breaks record

Belle Vernon senior guard Cam Nusser found his shooting touch in a recent game against Ringgold or, as the Leopards call it, “the team from across the river.”

Nusser connected on a school record nine 3-pointers in the 80-71 win. He finished with a career-high 37 points.

Nusser isn’t just a shooter for the Leopards. He had a double-double in a 78-50 win over Monessen, with 14 points and 10 assists.

Upset for the Scotties

Very few saw this one coming.

Southmoreland pulled a stunner Wednesday night, on the road nonetheless, with a 62-58 win in overtime over Secton 4-3A leading Washington. Senior Riley Comforti, who earlier in the day signed to play wide receiver at Alderson Broaddus, scored 32 points for the Scotties (10-11, 7-4).

“That is a difficult place to play, and we haven’t had any luck down there, but we have been playing better the last eight games since they beat us at home by 31,” Scotties coach Frank Muccino said. “We were able to match their toughness (Wednesday), especially on defense and on the glass.”

Jam session

When Belle Vernon senior forward Thomas Hepple took an alley-oop pass from sophomore Devin Whitlock and threw down a two-handed slam dunk against Uniontown earlier this season — the pair has done that on several occasions — he had no idea who was watching.

Turns out, the highlight made Hudl.com’s national top 5 dunks list for the week of Jan. 19. Hepple’s jam checked in at No. 2.

Hepple and Whitlock are friends who grew up near one another in Monessen.

Playoff teams

One of the key games with playoff implications to keep an eye on Friday night is Latrobe (6-14, 3-6) at Hempfield (11-9, 5-4).

While Hempfield already has clinched a playoff berth out of Section 3-6A, Latrobe must win to extend its playoff streak to eight years in a row.

The Wildcats neither have missed the playoffs nor posted a losing record since 2011-12.

The field of WPIAL playoff teams from Westmoreland includes: Penn-Trafford in Class 6A; Mt. Pleasant, Derry and Belle Vernon in 4A; Southmoreland in 3A; Jeannette in 2A: and Monessen and Greensburg Central Catholic in Class A.

The WPIAL will announce playoff matchups and seedings Tuesday night in Green Tree. The playoffs are set to begin Feb 14.

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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