Franklin Regional basketball teams prepare to tip off
The Franklin Regional girls and boys basketball teams will take to the court for their first games of the season this weekend, with tip-off tournaments likely providing a strong early test for the Panthers.
The girls team will host the Franklin Regional Tip-Off Tournament, featuring Jeannette, Mt. Pleasant and North Hills. The boys will play in the Upper St. Clair Tournament, featuring Monessen, Obama Academy and Upper St. Clair.
Franklin Regional's girls will host Jeannette at 7:30 p.m. Friday. If the Panthers win that matchup, they will face the winner of the Mt. Pleasant-North Hills game. If they lose to the Jayhawks, they will face the loser between Mt. Pleasant and North Hills. Their game Saturday is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Jeannette, a WPIAL Class AA semifinalist in 2012-13, lost all-state guard Ciara Gregory to graduation but returns senior forward Monique Redman, who averaged 12.9 points per game last season.
Mt. Pleasant lost in the preliminary round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs last season but returns junior guard Alexa Szelong, who averaged 11.4 ppg. North Hills finished 7-15 last season but competes in what Franklin Regional coach Rick Klimchock calls one of the most difficult sections in Class AAAA.
“The tournament's been really good the last couple of years,” Klimchock said. “Our goal is to get in the finals and win the darn thing. We won it the first year, and the last two years we lost in the first round and won in the consolation. We're hoping to finish strong (and) have a good showing here. We're excited about really a brand-new team.”
Franklin Regional lost four seniors from last season's team, while current junior Gillian Kane, a top contributor in 2012-13, elected to play volleyball over the winter, Klimchock said.
The boys team, meanwhile, will open its season at 6 p.m. Friday against Obama Academy at Upper St. Clair High School. If the Panthers win, they will face the winner of the Monessen-Upper St. Clair game Saturday. If they lose, they will face the loser of the Monessen-Upper St. Clair matchup.
Obama Academy, of the Pittsburgh City League, finished 16-3 overall and 9-1 in section play last season. The Eagles return senior D.J. Porter, who finished second in the City League in scoring last season with 18.9 ppg and is receiving Division I interest.
Monessen finished 10-14 last season, losing in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals. The Greyhounds return all five starters, including senior Clintell Gillaspie, who averaged 16.3 ppg last season.
Upper St. Clair finished 20-4, losing in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals. The defending Section 4-AAAA champions lost leading scorer Jordan Grabowski to graduation.
Franklin Regional is returning nine seniors, most of whom were heavy contributors in 2012-13, when the Panthers finished tied for fifth place in Section 2-AAAA.