Westmoreland County girls basketball notebook: Franklin Regional focuses on closing out games

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Wednesday, January 11, 2023 | 5:40 PM


Franklin Regional has held halftime and second-half leads this season but has come up short at the final buzzer.

Close games have been a regular thing for the Panthers, but they have had trouble squeezing wins out of them.

“We have to learn how to play four total quarters and close games out,” coach Bernie Pucka said. “We lost to Mars by three (48-45), Plum by two (40-38) and Seton LaSalle by one (51-50). At some point, we were leading those games in the second half. Those three losses, by a total of six, are the difference between us having a winning and losing record at this point.”

Franklin Regional (5-7, 3-2) was scoring 48.9 points and allowing 48.8 through nine games. In other words, they had scored one more point than they had given up (440-439).

There are signs the pressure-packed 16 minutes after halftime are becoming less stressful.

Franklin Regional took care of Penn Hills, 62-51. The Panthers led 35-30 at halftime and 50-42 after three quarters.

They held the Indians to nine points in the fourth.

Then, they gave away a 19-16 halftime lead and fell behind Kiski Area after three quarters, 29-25, before rallying for a 40-37 victory.

“Since the tough loss against River Valley (61-37), we’ve really been working on our decision making and transition game at practice,” Pucka said. “Since last season, our man and zone sets have improved. Now we’re working on some transition consistency.”

Senior guard Sarah Penrod quietly has been one of the better backcourt leaders in the area.

Nonsection games, Pucka said, are getting his team sharp for section games.

“No doubt, our section is a grind,” Pucka said. “(But) if I had to trade our nonsection losses versus helping us to close out some close section opponents, I’d make that trade any day of the week and twice on Sundays.”

Tiff file

Mt. Pleasant senior Tiffany Zelmore, the WPIAL’s leading scorer with a 29.1 average, is now over 1,300 points for her career. The 5-foot-10 forward, who has seven games of 31 or more this season including a 41-point output, has 1,315 points.

Big game for GCC

Greensburg Central Catholic has a challenging three-game stretch in Section 3-2A play.

The Centurions (11-2, 4-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, defeated Serra Catholic, 47-43, last week. Now, they will travel Thursday to face No. 4 Clairton (5-2, 3-1).

A third straight challenge awaits Monday when they host Winchester Thurston (6-4, 3-0), which trails them by a half game in the section.

Tight race

Section 4-3A is turning into a traffic jam, and Yough is stuck in the gridlock.

Waynesburg, Charleroi, South Park and Yough are all 2-1 heading into Thursday’s games. McGuffey is lurking at 1-2.

Yough has won three of four, including a 44-38 victory over Waynesburg.

Top 5 matchup

A top girls’ game on a boys night? Why not?

Penn-Trafford (9-2, 3-1), ranked No. 3 in 5A, will host No. 1 McKeesport (11-1, 4-0) at 6 p.m. Friday as part of a girls-boys doubleheader.

The Warriors boys will host Latrobe at 7:30.

D-fence

Norwin and Greensburg Salem have something in common. Both are allowing just 31.8 points per game, the third-best points-against average in the WPIAL.

Loving it

A pair of WPIAL girls basketball players are nominated for the top all-star game in the nation.

South Fayette guard Maddie Webber and Indiana center Eva Fiala are among a nationwide pool of 722 girls and boys nominees for the 2023 McDonald’s All-American Games, set for 6:30 p.m. March 28 in Houston.

Webber and Fiala play in Class 5A.

Webber, a 5-foot-11 guard, is a Villanova commit who leads the No. 2-ranked Lions in scoring at 19 points per game. She guided South Fayette to a WPIAL championship last season.

Fiala, one of the tallest players to come along in the WPIAL in recent years at 6-foot-5, averages 15 points for the Indians. She is a Dayton commit.

The top 24 girls and 24 boys will be announced between 3-4 p.m. on Jan. 24 via ESPN’s various outlets.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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