Friday, January 24, 2020 | 10:49 PM
It was Military Appreciation Night at Franklin Regional, and players from both teams, the Panthers and Mars, wore T-shirts in pregame warm-ups emblazoned with the words, “Max Effort,” across the chest.
That’s what fourth-ranked Mars needed to finally push past the Panthers, 53-42, and earn a Section 3-5A victory Friday night.
With the outcome up in the air with 1 minute, 35 seconds left after Franklin Regional (8-10, 5-5), despite a lack of offense in the final eight minutes, cut a 14-point lead in half — at 45-38 — the Fightin’ Planets (12-3, 7-2) made free throws to pull away and snap the Panthers’ four-game winning streak.
Mars has won 8 of 9 and three in a row.
“We had some bad possessions in the fourth quarter, and we made some bad decisions that hurt us,” Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. “I needed to do a better job of getting us into (an offensive) set when we needed to score. We weren’t scoring.”
Mars went on a 15-0 run that started late in the third and carried over into the fourth as the Panthers went silent offensively and fell behind, 43-29.
They never recovered. They didn’t get their first field goal in the fourth until Logan Summerhill made a layup with about 2:50 left.
Mars, though, allowed the Panthers to poke and prod and, as a result, hang around.
The Planets looked more in control when they were moving the ball and playing faster.
“We’re so young at guard,” Mars coach Rob Carmody said. “We’re not real good when things get stagnant. We get pound-headed dribbling around and trying to make Harlem Globetrotter plays. We’re better when we’re moving.”
The Planets made 15 of 22 free throws in the final quarter and outscored the Panthers, 23-14, despite just four field goals.
After sophomore Caden Smith made two free throws for the Panthers to cut it to 45-38, junior Anthony Vargo and Schlegel each made a pair of foul shots to stretch the lead back to double digits with both teams in the double bonus.
“Our kids are standing around just waiting for it to end, watching the clock,” Carmody said. “We need to make more free throws.”
Schlegel hit two more to make it 52-40.
Junior Kaadyn Hannah scored four quick points for Franklin Regional in the closing seconds, but it was too late.
Sophomore Zach Schlegel went 8 for 8 from the line in the quarter and finished with 11 points. Senior 6-foot-6, 290-pound forward Michael Carmody had 12 points and pulled down 19 rebounds, and senior Joey Craska had 10 points, six in the fourth.
Junior guard Luke Kimmich knocked down five 3-pointers and ended with a game-high 17 points. Kimmich is the sixth man. The Panthers’ starters combined for 16 points.
“It was 30-28 (Mars, after three quarters),” Scorpion said. “We didn’t score in the fourth quarter and again, that comes down to me getting them in a position to score. We had the No. 4 team and didn’t make good decisions when it mattered.”
Senior 6-7 forward Johnny O’Toole picked up his fourth foul late in the third for Franklin Regional and played sparingly in the fourth.
Summerhill, the team’s leading scorer, fouled out with eight points.
Junior guard Mihali Sfanos had nine points for Mars, taking the ball to the rim on several possessions. Sophomore 6-6 forward Chris Dvorak, who has been giving the Planets big minutes of late, chipped in eight points before fouling out.
“We’re learning and getting better,” coach Carmody said. “Nobody is growing to grow five or six inches at this point in the season. Franklin Regional and coach Scorpion do a great job of switching defenses, and I thought we responded well for the most part.”
Franklin Regional jumped out to an 11-5 lead after the first quarter as the Panthers hit three straight 3-pointers, two from Kimmich.
Mars came back to cut it to 13-11, but Kimmich hit another 3 and Smith tipped in a miss to put the Panthers back up by seven, at 18-11.
Mars ended the half on a 13-2 run to take a 24-20 lead at the break.
The Planets made 19 of 26 free throws for the game.
Mars won the first meeting, 57-52, on its home floor. In that game, Franklin Regional trailed after three quarters, 45-30.
But there was not big final eight-minute push this time.
Franklin Regional is tied with Plum (5-11, 5-5) for fourth place. The top four teams make the WPIAL playoffs.
Plum clipped Hampton, 46-42, Friday night.
“We have work to do now,” Scorpion said. “Tuesday (at Plum) is that much bigger now.”