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Prolific shooter Renzi adds another dimension to game

| Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional guard Matt Renzi brings the ball down court during a game against McKeesport on Jan. 9, 2014, at Franklin Regional High School.

On a team of good shooters, Franklin Regional point guard Matt Renzi considers himself the best.

“I take pride in it,” he said.

This season, however, Renzi is much more than just the Panthers' top shooting threat.

Renzi, the Panthers' starting point guard, turned himself into an all-around player during the offseason to better help the team, which began the week in a fight for one of four playoff spots out of section 2-AAAA.

“Throughout the years, I've just been a spot-up shooter,” said Renzi, who was averaging a team-best 17.4 points per game entering Tuesday night's game at Fox Chapel. “Over the summer, I worked hard on becoming a point guard and all-around player. It's just about working during the offseason.”

The shooting ability is still there. Shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc, Renzi leads Franklin Regional with 52 3-pointers — more than five times as many as his closest teammate. He unleashed his scoring ability last week against Central Catholic, erupting for 30 points in a key section victory.

This season, Renzi has the ability to create his own shot by driving into the lane or shooting off the dribble.

“It's a big difference from last year,” Franklin Regional coach Brad Midgley said. “There'd be games last year where he'd get six or seven looks at a 3-point shot, depending on who we were playing. Then, the next game, he might only get one look. He's too good of a player to be a guy that only gets one look, and it's one of the things we talked about at the end of the season.”

Renzi said he worked on the new aspects of his game — ball-handling, passing and defense — through the spring and summer and was ready to take over as Franklin Regional's point guard when practices began in the fall.

The new abilities manifested themselves early, as Renzi scored 32 points in a season-opening loss against Obama Academy. He followed that performance up by putting up 27 points in a victory over Westinghouse the next night, and the senior scored in double figures 12 times in the Panthers' first 14 games.

“(His shooting is) a huge weapon,” Midgley said. “It doesn't matter if he's having an off night or he hasn't gotten a shot for a whole quarter. He weighs on the coaching staff of the other team because they know that he has the ability to go off at any moment. It's a guy that helps us spread the floor. And he's (now) a guy that late in games or if we need to get him a shot, all you do is put the ball in his hands and he can create space.”

In addition to working on his game, Renzi said he also prepared to become more of a leader this season — something that comes with the territory of being a senior and a team's point guard.

“(I'm) just making sure everybody picks it up in practice, staying positive,” he said. “If we lose, I've got to pick everybody back up to make sure we're coming back and winning the next game.”

After missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons, Franklin Regional (9-5, 5-3) has a chance to end that streak this season. The Panthers began the week tied for third place in Section 2-AAAA with Central Catholic. The top four teams in each section qualify for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

“It's really motivating,” Renzi said. “We haven't seen the playoffs since (2011), and we just want to go hard and get the spot this year.”

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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