Late run sends Vikings to win over Panthers
Franklin Regional's young boys basketball team went stride for stride with Central Catholic until one of the Vikings' seniors took control of the game's final minutes.
David Urso scored eight unanswered points to break open a tie game in the final 2:20, as Central Catholic picked up a 71-61 win at Franklin Regional in the Section 2-AAAA opener for both teams on Friday.
Urso finished with 16 points to lead a Central Catholic (3-1, 1-0) team that played 15 players, eight of whom are seniors.
Franklin Regional (3-2, 0-1) was led by its lone healthy senior, Nate Hlozek, who scored a game-high 19 points, including eight straight in the third quarter to get the Panthers back in the game. Charan Singh scored 15 for Franklin Regional, and Jake Roberge added 12 for the home team.
Hlozek's scoring spurt, which consisted of back-to-back 3-pointers and a steal and layup in transition, tied the game at 37-37 after FR trailed by as many as nine points earlier in the quarter.
“We went on that run in the third quarter, and it got the crowd into the game and had us feeling good,” Hlozek said. “It was a tie game with two minutes left. We just didn't execute in those last two minutes, and that's what hurt us.”
“Nate showed some major leadership in the second half,” Franklin Regional coach Brad Midgley said. “In the first half, he had a couple shots come up short, and it easily could have snowballed into being a bad game. He picked it up in the second half, and he knocked a couple shots down that definitely got us back in the game and picked it up defensively, as well.”
The Panthers never led in the fourth quarter but tied the game twice, first at 48-48, and then at 54-54 after another Hlozek 3-pointer.
That was when Urso took over by going agressively to the hoop, as he scored from close range on three possessions and added a layup after a steal by Sam Calhoun for his own personal 8-0 run.
“We would score to tie it, but they came back every time with a bucket of their own each time,” Hlozek said. “It was just mental breakdowns on our part, and it's something we can learn from.”
“They really outexecuted us in the last two minutes,” Midgley said. “You could just tell, with their experience, that we weren't going to take the ball off them, and they were going to go to the hoop strong every time.
“On the other hand, we fumbled the ball a little and had some passes get tipped, and when you execute that way, you're going to lose.”
Though Franklin Regional showed some of its youth during the game's waning moments, the Panthers did an excellent job in the first half just to keep themselves in range.
Foul trouble severely limited the Panthers, who only used an eight-man rotation in the game, as they withstood the Vikings' steady stream of substitutes. Both George Brown and Matt Renzi, who scored eight second-half points, had their first-half minutes limited with three fouls each, while Singh and Tyler Hamilton both had to be careful with two early fouls.
“We were just trying to survive that first half,” Midgley said. “When you only play seven or eight guys, that can really hurt you. Our guys did a great job of making sure there wasn't too much damage, and we stayed as close as we could in the first half.”
“Tonight was a good measurement to see where we are,” Hlozek said. “It hurts to lose, but we competed and hung in there with a very good team.”
Last week wasn't all bad for the Panthers, who earlier won the annual Mike Rettger Tournament on their own floor with wins over Westinghouse, 68-57, and Norwin, 61-46. Those wins let the Panthers maintain a winning record entering two critical section contests this week.
FR was scheduled to travel to Fox Chapel on Tuesday, after this edition's deadline, before returning home for its final game before Christmas against Penn Hills at 7:30 p.m. this Friday.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or email@example.com.