Gator Surge Puts Blackout on Panthers Playoff Hopes
The Franklin Regional Panthers played host to Gateway Gators in a must win scenario for both teams. Albeit the consequences were different for each team both needed the win equally to achieve their goals. The Panthers playoff hopes were on the line as they were the fifth place team in Section 2 and needed a win to have any chance of catching Fox Chapel. For Gateway the opportunity to pull even with McKeesport atop the standings was on the line.
The Gators took an early lead and seemed to have the Panthers out of sync in the first few minutes as they employed the press from the start and jumped out to a 4-1 lead. The Panthers quickly regrouped and trailing 5-8 put together a 9-0 run in the first stanza. Leading the way for the Panthers was 6″6′ junior Todd Summers who converted a three point play the old fashioned way then knocked one down from beyond the arc. The Panthers would lead 14-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Gateway would answer in the second the quarter and all night as the teams went back and forth throughout the first half. Nine players in total would put a mark on the score sheet as it seemed that offense for the Gators could come from anywhere. Senior Daylon Harris had 7 of Gateway’s 30 first half points and was the teams leading scorer at that point as the Gators would take a 30-29 lead into the locker room.
After a back and forth first half the Gators would put together a 20-5 run to start the third quarter and never looked back. Juniors Frank Bozicevic and Clayton Nola led the surge, connecting on 7 of 8 three point attempts that would be just too much for the Panthers to overcome. The lone miss was rebounded by freshman John Paul Kromka and put in for an easy lay up as the Gator’s were firing on all cylinders. They extended their half time lead to 54-40 by the end of the third quarter.
The Panthers were able trade blows throughout the fourth quarter but never overcame the Gators big run. Panther freshman Nate Leopold continued his impressive play as of late and finished as the game high scorer with 23 points. Summers was the only other Panther in double digits tallying 18 on the night. The Gators had 5 players post double digits on the score sheet. Nola lead the way with 17, Harris had 16, Bozicevic and senior Arrington Johns contributed 12 while Kromka posted 11. For his outstanding display of timely shooting Clayton Nola was named the Quad A Game of the Week Player of the Game.
The Panther loss combined with a Fox Chapel win over Penn Hills tonight eliminates Franklin Regional from playoff contention as they fall to 7-11 overall and 3-7 in section play. While the four playoff teams have been decided in Section 2, the title is still up for grabs in a closely contested race. Gateway stands even with an idle McKeesport after improving their record to 12-6 overall and 7-2 in section play. Also atop the standings are the Plum Mustangs who improved to 7-2 as well after defeating Woodland Hills. The Gators’ destiny is in their own hands as they have 3 section games remaining. They will face Fox Chapel, Plum and end the season in what may be a title deciding game at home next Friday against the McKeesport Tigers. You can listen live to that game next week on the MSA and Quad A sports network.