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Moon Comes Back To Best Franklin Regional, Takes WPIAL 5A Boys Title




PITTSBURGH — Throughout the season, Moon head coach Gino Palmosina has made it known that he has full trust in each player on the roster and in Friday night’s WPIAL Class 5A Championship against Franklin Regional at the Petersen Events Center, that once more held true.

Senior guard Donovan Turner had his name called and hit a three-point basket to revitalize the Tiger offense in the third quarter and then had an and-one play and another triple.

“Big players make big plays and (Turner) made big plays and he’s a big player,” Moon junior forward Michael Santicola stated. “We have full trust in him, he’s proven himself in practice and time after time. It’s right time, right moment and we love him for that. They did a heck of a job on everybody else, and he saw his moment and took it.”

Moon came from 10 points down in the second half to defeat Franklin Regional 53-48.

Santicola’s double-double, consisting of 14 points and 10 rebounds, led the Tigers. Senior guard/forward Aiden Reesman completed play with 13 points and seven rebounds, while forward/guard Elijah Guillory put together 11 points.

The Tigers won the rebounding battle by a 33-23 count. This is Palmosina’s third WPIAL title, as he won back-to-back Class 1A championships with Bishop Canevin in 2021 and 2022 and now has won his first in second year with Moon.

Predictably he deflected credit explaining 75% of the success could be attributed to his players and 25% to his staff.

“It’s more about your Jimmy’s and Joe’s than your x’s and o’s is what I like to say,” he remarked.

Franklin Regional saw senior guard Cooper Rankin amass a game-high 16 points, with fellow senior in forward Cameron Rowell right behind him at 15 points.

Early on, each team had a steady early scorer. For the Tigers it was Reesman as he scored the opening six points and Santicola recorded two early assists leading to a 6-0 start. Rankin was unafraid to rise and fire for the Panthers and it lead to an 8-0 response.

Ultimately it was Franklin Regional who led 15-12 after one quarter.

Moon would get in its own way often in the first half with 10 turnovers and an 0-for-5 shooting performance from three-point range. Franklin Regional made an effort to double team Guillory, and it paid off as he was uncomfortable for much of the first 16 minutes.

“They blitzed every ball screen with him and that’s something we had to adjust at halftime,” said Santicola. “I was surprised with how well they fronted him in the post. He still made some big shots and our other guys we have full trust.”

The Tigers also were hindered during fast break opportunities by being too pass happy in seeking a perfect shot.

Despite this, Moon remained in the fight courtesy of a defensive effort that held the Panthers to a 28.6% shooting clip in the second quarter. Franklin Regional led 26-20 at halftime.

It was a good start for the Panthers as Rowell drained consecutive layups extending the lead into double figures.

Santicola brought Moon back with a three-point shot but the bench contribution from Turner helped slowly turn the pendulum in the Tigers direction.

Turner sank a triple in the quarter which seemed to help a Moon side which was beginning to find itself.

Despite this, junior forward/center Drew Devola followed up his own miss with a basket, putting his Panthers up by five points.

Turner once again held true from three-point range and when he turned an offense rebound into a layup, the teams were tied at 42.

Santicola hit a three pointer of his own just past the halfway portion of the quarter, giving Moon its first lead since the early stages of the opening period and a second triple would create separation.

Following an ankle sprain at the beginning of the season, Santicola is back to 100% though through occasional tweaks and swelling, he trusted his shot and consistently was at the right place at the right time.

Franklin Regional would cut its deficit to three points but could not draw closer and shot 15.4% from the field in the closing eight minutes.

“These guys realize that hopefully we’ll get a chance to see them again and try to have a different outcome,” Panthers head coach Jesse Reed stated. “Obviously this sucks, I’m not going to tell the guys that it doesn’t. You see how much work, time and effort goes into it, they’ve worked towards this since third grade. These guys are not defined by one game. The season they’re putting together is historic in Franklin Regional basketball history and we still have more basketball to play.”

After 10 turnovers in the first half, Moon had four miscues in the second half and Guillory made the adjustment of attacking hips to find guys and break out of the double team.

“Basically getting back to what was on the board before the game,” concluded Palmosina. “Offensively we were prepared for the zone we got a little impatient against it at times and forced. Kind of do your job and share it and get them moving in the zone.”

Moon faces the runner up the regional final between District Eight, Nine and 10, while Franklin Regional with face Distrcit III sixth place finisher Warwick from Lititz north of Lancaster.

Moon/Franklin Regional Videos


Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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