MOON TOWNSHIP — The number three seed Moon Area Tigers faced off against the number six seed Franklin Regional Panthers in an all too familiar match-up. Moon has seen Franklin Regional four times in three years, just in the playoffs. Two years ago, Moon knocked out Franklin Regional in the semi-finals on their way to win a WPIAL championship. Franklin Regional got their revenge however in the first round of the state playoffs soon after. Last year, Moon saw themselves on the losing end of the WPIAL semi-finals losing on a missed buzzer beater layup to win the game.
The game fired off with instant intensity from both teams. No team seemed to stop moving and each team played with as much defensive pressure as possible. Moon kicked off the game with a three ball from Connor Ryan and a post fade-away from Donovan Johnson. Johnson took control of the game and was almost unstoppable throughout, scoring a total of 22. Franklin answered with a few points of their own to break up the Moon run. Moon’s defensive effort shone halfway through the quarter with a block and a steal from Johnson along with a steal from Jioni Smith.
Moon seemed to be in control of the game near the end of the first quarter. However, Franklin Regional ignited on offense going on a 7-0 run to close out the quarter. Moon still came out of the quarter on top, 16-15.
Moon came out in the second quarter going on a 5-0 run due to an Austin Ryan three and a steal along with the finish from Taru Jones. The Panthers responded with back to back layups to break the run. The emotional intensity picked up this quarter. A couple of Tiger players could be seen clapping in the face of their opponent and giving a little shoves here and there. The Panthers gave a little bit of their own flair with a few court slaps and taunts. The second quarter ended with a few back and forth possessions from both teams but closed out with Moon still on top 32-20.
The third quarter saw less action on the offensive end than the first two quarters. The Panthers scored first with a layup on their first possession and id would not score the rest of the quarter. At this point in the game, Moon started to run away with it. The Tigers went on a 9-0 run to end the quarter after playing incredible defense to hold their opponent to just a single score. The Tigers leapt out to a 41-32 lead after taking advantage of the offensive woes from the Panthers.
The fourth quarter was a fouling frenzy. Both teams combined to shoot a total of 24 free throws in the quarter alone. The quarter started out with Moon continuing their scoring run off of a layup from Johnson. Franklin Regional broke their shooting slump after scoring off a jumper on the next possession. Moon broke out on an 8-2 run to put themselves up by double digits. The rest of the quarter consisted of a desperate Panthers team trying to claw back in the game by fouling the Tigers into free throws. Franklin Regional’s efforts were of no use as the Tigers hit their free throws and played istrong defense. The Tigers came out on top 64-48.
This win meant a lot for Moon as it showed their resilience and ability to ignore their past with Franklin Regional and come out victorious. All Tigers got involved on offense and their defense as a team was dominant. The Tigers will face the number two seed Penn Hills Indians in the WPIAL semi-finals this upcoming Tuesday.