Franklin Regional wins playoff opener with blowout
It was the first playoff win in a while for Franklin Regional girls basketball, and everybody got a piece of the action.
The Franklin Regional bench outscored the starters — and nearly the entire opposing team, too — as the Panthers rolled to a WPIAL Class AAAA preliminary-round playoff win over Albert Gallatin, 60-32, at Penn-Trafford High School on Friday.
Sarah Stephens had 12 of the 31 points that came from the subs to lead the scoring for Franklin Regional (11-12), and Maggie Kimmich scored 11 to pace the Panthers' starting unit.
Courtney Haines led all scorers with 14 for Albert Gallatin (11-12), which, like the Panthers, entered the playoffs by virtue of a tie for fourth place in its section.
“It's really exciting, just because we've worked so hard. It was one of our goals all year to not just make the playoffs, but to win a playoff game,” Kimmich said.
The win was the first in the playoffs for Franklin Regional's girls program since 2008, when it defeated Mars in a Class AAA preliminary-round game. Prior to that, FR had not won a postseason game since the 1990s.
With the win, the Panthers advanced to face top-seeded Mt. Lebanon in a first-round game on Tuesday, after this edition's deadline.
“I couldn't be happier for our four seniors, Hanna (Wagner), Maggie (Kimmich), Erin (DiFalco) and Dana (Eastman),” said Franklin Regional coach Rick Klimchock, who also got his first playoff win as coach of the Panthers.
“It meant a lot for our kids and our program to get a win, especially to play as well as we did. We'd have beaten a lot of teams, the way we played tonight.”
The Panthers dominated from the start and raced out to a 14-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. Albert Gallatin had no answer for FR's up-tempo play and pressure defense, and by halftime, the Panthers were already on their way to the next round with a 30-11 advantage.
Every player found a way to chip in, Klimchock said, whether it was defense, rebounding, or in the case of Stephens, doing some uncharacteristic shooting.
“The one thing about Sarah is that she won't freeze up or be nervous in a big game,” Klimchock said. “She's not necessarily a great outside shooter for us, but she drilled two jump shots to get things started for us, and I think we all gained confidence from her.”
Coming off of back-to-back losses against Plum and Ambridge, the Panthers endured a hard week of practice prior to the playoff game, and the work appeared to pay off with a lopsided win.
“The last couple days of practice have been really intense,” Kimmich said. “We've been really focused on correcting our mistakes because we wanted to have a good game tonight.”
“We weren't happy with the way we played the last two games, and practice this week was complete warfare,” Klimchock said. “I think that showed up today with our energy level.”
The Panthers' good energy level lasted throughout the game, and it allowed Klimchock to used the fourth quarter to let his reserves and junior varsity call-ups to get varsity playing time while the starters and seniors were able to sit back and watch with a comfortable lead.
“It's a great feeling, becuase ever since my freshman year, we've wanted to win a game like this. This feels good to have this for the last year of my high school career,” Kimmich said. “To have everybody contribute and do their part, it makes the win even more meaningful.”
Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's game, Klimchock said, it's another step forward for the program to face a team of the quality of the defending WPIAL champ Blue Devils.
“We're playing with the house's money right now,” Klimchock said. “(Mt. Lebanon coach) Dori (Oldaker) is an old friend of mine, and she's accomplished a lot there. To play them is a great opportunity for us.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or email@example.com.