With state playoff berth on the line, Franklin Regional tops Plum in shootout

Wednesday, November 3, 2021 | 10:54 PM

A quickly scribbled together crib sheet that coaches drew up during the second overtime helped Franklin Regional extend its season.

Although this wasn’t cheating. It was precise execution.

The piece of paper had all the answers sophomore goalkeeper Aryan Selokar needed for the shootout session against Plum on Wednesday night in the WPIAL Class 3A consolation game.

Selokar studied and memorized it.

As a result, he knew Plum’s Aldair Flowers was going left on his penalty kick, the Mustangs’ third attempt. Selokar dove and pawed away the freshman’s shot to set the table for freshman Joey Bayne’s game-clinching PK as Franklin Regional outlasted Plum, 2-1 (4-1 PKs) at Gateway to secure a berth in the PIAA playoffs.

“He knew where everyone was going to go,” Franklin Regional coach Thomas Louisy said of Selokar. “That’s how detailed we were. He knew where (Flowers) was going to go. That was important. He made the save.”

It took two overtimes and a shootout, but Franklin Regional (16-4) is headed back to the state postseason after missing the tournament last year when the WPIAL only sent its district champions.

“I saw his movement, moving towards the ball, and that’s what really gave it away, ” said Selokar, who made four saves. “He’s a freshman, and he’s very nervous. I kind of read him like that, knew where it was going, made the save and moved on.”

Plum, a fellow Section 4 team that split with the Panthers during the regular season, is finished at 17-4-1.

Senior Anthony DiFalco, junior Colton Hudson and junior Jake Kimmich also made their kicks in the tiebreaker for the Panthers, who will play District 10 champion Cathedral Prep (17-1-1) Tuesday on the road.

The third matchup of the season between neighboring semifinalists couldn’t have been much closer.

In the shootout, DiFalco opened the scoring with a make and Plum’s Michael Weleski’s shot sailed high. Hudson then made his attempt and Luke Kolankowski did too for Plum. Jake Kimmich also converted for the Panthers for a 3-1 advantage, but Selokar denied Flowers to set up Bayne.

DiFalco, despite numerous WPIAL and PIAA playoff games, had never been in a shootout in his career.

“I was calm and took a deep breath before I shot,” DiFalco said. “I’m sure they watched film on me. I usually go to the one side, so I just picked the other side.

“I was more nervous for my teammates taking (shots) than me. (Selokar) made a great save in a PK shootout. He dove the right way. (Bayne) is a confident freshman. He has been a real help this year. I think he’ll help in states.”

Plum took a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute on a strike from Lucas Pittman near the top of the box.

Franklin Regional tied it in the second half when DiFalco delivered a perfect cross to Hudson, who finished with a diving shot in the 55th minute.

Franklin Regional controlled play for most of the match and had two shots hit the post. Kimmich made a terrific defensive play to keep Plum from going ahead 2-0 when he sprinted into a wide-open net and kicked away a slow-rolling shot.

Plum keeper Owen Zalewski also made a key save on a putback attempt by junior Dylan Tomb. Zalewski made three saves.

Plum did not have a shot on goal in the second half.

“Our boys showed a lot of character,” Louisy said. “I knew we were going to score. Plum is a very good possession team with a lot of good players. We have less possession but create more chances, and I think that is more important.”

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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