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END OF THE ROAD: Franklin Rally Falls Short in State Quarterfinal Loss to Penn Cambria

Saturday, March 18, 2023 @ 10:03 PM

Posted by Mike Kilroy

KITTANNING, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Trailing 47-38 early in the fourth quarter, the Franklin boys basketball team needed a spark.

The Knights got it thanks to a shift into a press.

The pressure forced four quick turnovers from Penn Cambria and Franklin quickly turned that nine-point deficit into a 49-49 tie with 2:55 remaining in the game.

But, the Knights couldn’t sustain that momentum.

(Pictured above, Penn Cambria’s Garrett Harrold makes one of his 12 free throws as Franklin fell 61-53 in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals)

Penn Cambria closed out Franklin with a game-ending 12-4 spurt to move on to the PIAA Class 3A semifinals with a 61-53 victory at Armstrong High School on Saturday afternoon.

“We got some good steals and got some run-outs,” said Franklin coach Jason Fulmer. “But we couldn’t get the ball to drop today. We talked at halftime, it was probably the worst percentage we shot all year long. Whatever reason, it’s basketball. They rattle out every once in a while.”

Franklin High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


They rattled out more than usual for the Knights, who misfired on a number of layups and put-backs in the paint and also shot unusually poorly from behind the arc.

Still, Franklin (23-5) battled back from being down for most of the game — its last lead was 10-9 six minutes into the game.

Penn Cambria (24-5) led by as many as 11 in the second half, but couldn’t sink the dagger into the Knights.

Instead, the Panthers turned the ball over on four consecutive possession after Franklin shifted to a press, prompting coach Jim Ronan to call a timeout to stop the bleeding.

“Franklin threw some haymakers out there with that little press,” Ronan said. “We didn’t waver. We had some mistakes down the stretch, but we regrouped from it. They said, ‘We’re not losing this game. We’re finding a way to win this game.’”

Garrett Harrold turned out to be the way.

His step-back 3-pointer from several feet behind the arc at the top of the key gave Penn Cambria a 52-49 lead with two minutes remaining.

Harrold then hit 6-of-6 from the free-throw line to salt the game away.

Harrold, a Duquesne recruit and record-setting quarterback for Penn Cambria, was 12 of 12 from the line in the game and scored 29 points.

Penn Cambria as a team was 19 of 22 at the stripe.

“They say free throws win games, tough games down the stretch,” Ronan said. “Garrett stepped up huge. He’s a special kid. Nothing fazes him and that’s who you want at the line. Last two minutes, the ball was going in his hand. No matter what happened, we could live with it.”

It’s going to be difficult for Franklin to live with this loss.

“I sure would like to go do a redo,” Fulmer said.

The Knights had a golden opportunity to pull off another mild upset on their postseason march. On Wednesday, Franklin ended OLSH’s two-year PIAA reign to advance.

Cole Buckley scored 21 points and Ethan Owens added 11 for the Knights, who made just two 3-pointers in the game.

“When they set up defensively, they gave us troubles,” Fulmer said. “I mean, guys didn’t hit shots. I don’t think Jalen (Wood) had a 3 (he didn’t, and was held to just three points). He’s shooting 44% from behind the arc. Damon (Curry) struggled behind the arc (one 3-pointer for five points). They’re a good team. We’re a good team. I just don’t know we got all the breaks shooting percentage-wise.”

Penn Cambria hit eight 3-pointers in the first half, but just two in the second half.

Part of that had to do with Franklin’s adjustments on defense against the 3-point-shooting-happy Panthers, who have lived and rarely died by the 3 this season.

Penn Cambria also made a concerted effort to get to the rim in the final two quarters.

“They made a good adjustment,” Ronan said. “You can’t just keep stepping out and shooting from 20, 25 feet or so. We adjusted as well and took them to the rim a little bit more.”

Penn Cambria will play Deer Lakes on Tuesday in the semifinals at a site and time to be determined.

It’s the first trip to the semifinals for the Panthers.

“We’re just so overwhelmed with emotion,” Ronan said. “It’s been a dream of a lifetime.”

Franklin High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.

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