Buzzer-beater doesn't fall for Panthers
A fraction of an inch less and Franklin Regional would have had another four minutes to knock off the No. 4 team in Class AAAA.
Matt Fisch's 3-point attempt at the buzzer had the right line but hit the back iron to allow Gateway to escape from Franklin Regional with a 59-56 win in the second game of a Section 2-AAAA doubleheader on Friday.
Nate Hlozek led the Panthers (6-5, 1-3) with 19 points, 15 of which came in the second half, while Matt Renzi scored 12 of his 15 points after halftime, as well.
For the Gators (7-1, 4-0), Deon Baker led the way with 12 points, and D.J. Baker had eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Panthers trailed by six, 58-52, with 1:00 remaining in the game but worked their way back into the contest with a steal and two quick hoops by Renzi. After Henry York made 1 of 2 foul shots for Gateway, the Panthers had the ball for the final possession of the game.
After their first attempt to inbound the ball led to a Gateway foul, FR had one last chance with :05.0 on the clock. The inbound pass went to Charan Singh in the left corner, and he quickly was double teamed.
Singh elevated above the defenders and threw a cross-court pass to a wide-open Fisch, who had nine points off the bench and sparked the FR offense when it struggled in the first half. Fisch's shot appeared good on the release, but it was too strong, and Gateway remained unbeaten in the section.
“That's what we needed. We were trying to get any open 3-pointer we could,” Renzi said. “Charan wasn't open, and he made a great pass to Matt Fisch, and he almost hit it. It was exactly what we were looking for.”
“We talked a little bit about how, in late-game situations, the defense sometimes all goes toward the ball,” Franklin Regional coach Brad Midgley said. “Charan found himself in trouble, and he did a good job finding somebody on the other side. The best you can ask for in that situation is an open look, and we got it, it just didn't go down.”
That Franklin Regional even had a shot to force overtime would have come as a surprise after the first five minutes of the game, when Gateway opened with a 10-0 run. It took a free throw by Singh to get FR on the board, and the team's only field goal in the first quarter came on a George Brown dunk in transition.
Even with those early struggles, the Panthers managed to get back in the game by halftime, as they cut the margin to 28-22.
“We're happy about the way we played the last three quarters,” Renzi said. “We fought back and stayed positive, but we lost that game in the first quarter.”
“It wasn't like the start was terrible. We just didn't make shots,” Midgley said.
“We were getting looks that we wanted, and again, all you can ask for is the looks at the rim. You're not going to make everything every night.”
The Panthers came out flying in the third quarter, as they took the lead for the first time, 30-29, on a 3-pointer by Renzi. FR reached its largest lead of the game at the end of a 15-4 run to start the quarter, and by the end of the period, it was holding on to a 40-37 advantage.
Gateway put together a run of its own to retake the lead in the fourth quarter, but poor foul shooting by the Gators helped Franklin Regional keep the margin close. Gateway was 13-for-28 at the line, including an 0-for-6 night from Baker, which forced the Gators to keep their most effective player on the bench in the closing minutes.
“As we stole some momentum and got the crowd behind us, you could see (Gateway) sink a little bit at the foul line,” Midgley said. “Give them credit. They made plays in other parts of the game to overcome that.”
Franklin Regional now has a two-game deficit in section play to make up, but much can happen with two-thirds of the section schedule still ahead.
The Panthers were scheduled to face McKeesport on Tuesday, after this edition's deadline, and they wrap up the week with a game at Woodland Hills on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“We're losing tight games,” Renzi said. “We're 1-3 now but we're ready to fight back. We are confident, and we're going to try our best to make playoffs and win the section.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.