Franklin Regional girls basketball heading back to WPIAL playoffs
In a struggle to survive, Franklin Regional's girls basketball team did the natural thing: It evolved.
The Panthers played an out-of-character but effective game against Woodland Hills on Feb. 5, as they slowed the pace to grind out a 34-28 win over the Wolverines and clinch a berth in the WPIAL playoffs.
Maggie Kimmich led the Panthers (10-12, 5-7) with 14 points, and Baylee Buleca scored 11. Delrika Jones-Carey led Woodland Hills (7-15, 3-9) with 19 points.
With a playoff berth on the line, the usually run-and-gun Panthers made a conscious decision to slow the pace against the Wolverines, and the move paid off with the team's best defensive showing of the season.
“It was definitely a difficult decision, but we felt (Woodland Hills) was not a great outside shooting team,” Franklin Regional coach Rick Klimchock said. “We felt if we could force them into some missed shots and rebound, it would help us. Unfortunately, we didn't shoot the ball very well ourselves.”
The Panthers were just 12-for-47 in the game, and though they led for nearly all of the contest, their lead was just one possession in the fourth quarter until a late 3-pointer by Dana Eastman extended the advantage.
“That was a big shot for us by Dana,” Klimchock said. “That got us a two-possession lead, and we made a few foul shots late to win the game.”
Franklin Regional dropped its final two games of the regular season. The team lost its Section 2-AAAA and home finale on Friday against Plum, 58-40, and it dropped a Monday nonsection test on the road at Ambridge, 63-36.
“At halftime against Plum, we had their lead down to seven and we thought we might have a chance,” Klimchock said. “Unfortunately, they came out very strong in the third quarter and pulled away from us there.
“It was a little disappointing that our seniors weren't able to go out with a win at home, but they're a nice bunch of kids that have done a lot for me and for the program over the last four years.”
While the home schedule is over, the season isn't for the playoff-bound Panthers, who likely will find themselves in a preliminary round game in the Quad-A playoffs.
Franklin Regional finished in a tie with Penn Hills for fourth place in the section, while Albert Gallatin and Latrobe tied for fourth in Section 1, and Upper St. Clair and Baldwin tied for fourth in Section 4. That means three preliminary-round games will be in order for the 14th- through 19th-seeded teams in Quad-A.
While some coaches might want to avoid preliminary-round games, Klimchock sees an opportunity in playing early
“I think it's exciting. We'll play a team that we feel we can match up with, and hopefully, get some momentum to game-plan for a pretty tough team,” Klimchock said.
Getting a first playoff win with FR is now Klimchock's goal, and he said getting one would represent another achievement for his players.
“It's been a while since Franklin Regional has won a playoff game,” he said. “In fact, it's been a while since the team has been in the playoffs two years in a row. “When we moved to Quad-A from Triple-A a few years ago, I thought it might take us a while to get in the playoffs. It turns out it took one year, and now we've done it twice in a row. That's something for the girls to be real proud of.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.