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Improved depth helping Franklin Regional boys succeed

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional forward Todd Summers takes a 3-pointer during the Panthers' game against Westinghouse at the Rettger Memorial Tournament on Dec. 10, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional guard Jake Roberge prepares to shoot a free throw during a game against Westinghouse at the Rettger Memorial Tournament on Dec. 10, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.

Franklin Regional boys basketball coach Brad Midgley found himself changing his team's starting lineup a few times during the first five games of the season.

The frequent changes have nothing to do with punishment, he said, and more to do with his squad's depth.

Five games into the season, Franklin Regional (3-2, 0-1) is relying on a primary core of nine players who can all contribute on the floor. The cast includes guards Tyler Hamilton, Colin Jonov, Matt Renzi, Jake Roberge and Charan Singh and forwards Devin Arrigo, George Brown, Matt Fisch and Todd Summers.

“Any one of us can step up,” Renzi said. “The more we play together, the more wins we'll get.”

“It's a nice luxury to have,” Midgley said. “We just need to make sure we do it the right way and the chemistry stays strong. Hopefully, it leads us to a good season.”'

So far, signs are positive. The Panthers averaged nearly 80 points in the season-opening Upper St. Clair Tournament and followed that up with a championship in the Rettger Memorial Tournament before dropping their section opener, 59-51, to Central Catholic last Friday.

While Franklin Regional did fall to Central Catholic, the Panthers led the Vikings by five points heading into the fourth quarter before struggling offensively.

“It's the first section game of the season,” Renzi said. “We've got to put it behind us, obviously, and come ready to play.”

Franklin Regional boasted depth on the perimeter last season, when the Panthers missed the postseason after tying for fifth place in Section 2-AAAA. The biggest difference with this season's team comes because of the depth on the interior. Where four guards started for the Panthers last season, Midgley can go with lineups that include two forwards and three guards this year.

“There's obviously some games where you might want to go with four guards, but night in and night out it's not always going to work out,” Midgley said. “There's going to be some teams that match up differently with you, and for us to be able to adjust to it is very nice.”

The improved interior play is leading to more second-chance opportunities for Franklin Regional, and Summers and Fisch especially showed strong signs in the Rettger tournament championship game against Norwin. Fisch finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Summers added 13 points in the Panthers' 58-52 victory.

Renzi is leading the Panthers' perimeter players in scoring, as he recorded 12 points against both Norwin and Central Catholic.

While Midgley said he was encouraged by the offensive development, he would like to see more balance between 3-point shooting and interior scoring.

“We want to make sure we focus on getting good shots each possession,” he said. “The 3-pointer is just something that has been a strength for us most games, so it's something we do lean on at times. But it's not something where we try to make sure we get so many open or so many shots per game. We just want to make sure we get the best look. We just have a lot of guys who can knock it down.”

Franklin Regional looked to bounce back from the Central Catholic loss when the Panthers hosted Fox Chapel on Tuesday. The game ended past the deadline for this week's edition. The Panthers will host Penn Hills at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“We always want to try to protect our home floor,” Midgley said. “You want to prepare for each game and go into each game feeling the same, but at the same time it's kind of hard not to feel a little more confidence at home.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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