Franklin Regional won’t rest until it wins its first PIAA championship, but that didn’t stop the Panthers from relying on some R & R — Rankin and Rowell — to reach the semifinals for the first time in 27 years.

Cooper Rankin scored 21 points and Cam Rowell scored 9 of his 16 points in a pivotal third quarter to propel Franklin Regional to a 63-51 win against Shaler in a PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal at Gateway.

The win, Franklin Regional’s third against Shaler (25-4) this season, moves the WPIAL runner-up Panthers (26-3) into the semifinals for the first time since they reached their only final in 1997. They will meet Moon (26-3) Monday in a WPIAL championship rematch. Moon defeated Franklin Regional, 53-48, March 1 in the WPIAL final.

“It’s pretty cool. We grew up playing those boys in tournaments, so it’s nice getting the job done when we had to,” said Rankin, whose team beat Shaler in double overtime in the regular season and by 28 points in the WPIAL semifinals.

Shaler, the WPIAL’s third-place finisher, came up short in its bid of reaching its first semifinal despite a monster effort from 6-foot-2 senior forward Brandon London, who produced a game-high 26 points.

Rankin, a 6-0 guard and one of Franklin Regional’s four senior starters, is a high-energy guy who used that energy to produce 12 points in the first half when the Panthers took a 24-21 lead into the break.

“He’s great,” Franklin Regional coach Jesse Reed said. “Like I tell him, he’s kind of our emotional leader. When he’s engaged like that and he’s bringing that energy, it’s infectious to everybody else. When he’s controlling the tempo, controlling the pace, getting guys involved, our whole team is just clicking, and it’s great to see.”

Shaler’s Keegan Smetanka, who was injured in the team’s second-round win, came off the bench Friday and drilled the tying 3-pointer 35 seconds into the third quarter. But Franklin responded with a 13-0 run to take a 37-24 lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter. With Rankin fighting foul trouble in the second half, it was Rowell, a senior guard-forward, who stepped up in the third quarter, scoring 7 points in the run and 9 in the quarter.

“I had to sit for a little bit, and I told him when I was walking out, ‘This is your game now. Go out and be you. Go out and score.’ And that’s what he did. He played his [butt] off and did his job,” Rankin said.

Franklin Regional’s lead ballooned to 50-34 after Connor Crossey’s basket with 6:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Shaler didn’t go away, instead using a 10-0 run to pull to 50-44 after Kaden Orga’s 3-pointer with 4:14 left. London scored five points in the run. The Titans then further trimmed their deficit to 54-50 with 2:28 left. Franklin Regional, though, turned to its two-minute offense to seal the win, outscoring Shaler, 9-1, the rest of the game. The Panthers went 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in that closing run.

This hungry Panthers team is now a win away from Chocolatetown.

“Just seeing the work these guys have put in and seeing it come together in this run is something special,” said Reed, who is in his third season. “And what’s great is we’re not done yet. We’ve got another game coming up, so we’ll see what we can do.”

Cooper Rankin scored a team-high 21 points Friday to help Franklin Regional defeat Shaler, 63-51, Friday night in a PIAA Class 5A quarterfinal at Gateway. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

More Class 5A

• Aiden Reesman poured in a career-high 26 points to help WPIAL champion Moon (26-3) hold off WPIAL sixth-place finisher Bethel Park, 67-51, at Chartiers Valley. Moon’s win pushes the Tigers into the semifinals for the first time since winning the title in 2019. Bethel Park, which until last week had not won a PIAA game in 24 years, was tied with Moon in the final minute of the third quarter before Caden Schmidt’s 3-pointer gave Moon a 43-40 lead after three quarters. Moon’s lead grew to double digits by the midway point of a fourth quarter that saw the Tigers outscore Bethel Park, 24-11. Elijah Guillory added 12 points for the Tigers, who notched their 14th win in a row. Mike Mathias scored 17 points and Connor Karabinos had 10 points for Bethel Park (15-14), which was playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1991.

Class 4A

• Brandin Cummings and Mikey Crawford scored 23 points apiece to lead defending champion Lincoln Park (26-3) to an 89-74 win against WPIAL fifth-place finisher North Catholic (18-10) at Fox Chapel. Meleek Thomas added 22 points for the WPIAL champion Leopards, who won their 18th consecutive game to reach the semifinals for the third time in four seasons. After beating section rival North Catholic by 14 and 18 points in the regular season, Lincoln Park led the Trojans, 37-33, at the half before outscoring them, 29-15, in the third quarter. Cummings and Thomas each scored 12 points in the third. North Catholic knocked down 16 3-pointers, including eight by Max Hurray and six by Jude Rottmann. Hurray scored 30 points and Rottmann 20 for the Trojans, who fell in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. Lincoln Park will meet Hampton in the semifinals after defeating the Talbots, 66-51, in the WPIAL final.

• Peter Kramer scored 22 points and WPIAL runner-up Hampton (25-4) used a strong finish to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2012 after a 60-54 win against District 3 champion Eastern York (20-8) at Bald Eagle. Hampton and Eastern York were tied, 43-43, after three quarters before the Tablots held a 17-11 edge in the fourth. With the score deadlocked at 45-45, Hampton used a 5-0 run to take the lead for good. The spurt was capped by a Kramer 3-pointer with 5:56 left. Alex Nyilas added 16 points and Liam Mignogna had 15 points and 7 rebounds for Hampton, which won for the 12th time in its past 13 games. Hampton went 12 of 13 from the free-throw line and didn’t miss a free throw in the second half. Carter Wamsley scored 18 points to lead Eastern York, which lost in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

Union’s Braylon Thomas scored a game-high 31 points Friday, but it wasn’t enough as the Scotties lost to Bishop Carroll, 80-73, in a PIAA Class 1A quarterfinal at Norwin. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Class 1A

• Nate Brazil scored 27 points and defending champion Imani Christian (17-10) used a third-quarter surge to eliminate District 10 champion Farrell (21-6) in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row, 70-60, at Slippery Rock University. Avery Wesley chipped in with 18 points and Markus Williams tacked on 10 for the WPIAL champion Saints, who won for the 11th time in 12 games and improved to 16-0 against Class 1A foes this season, all of the wins coming by double digits. Imani won its first five postseason games by an average of 30 points and beat Farrell by exactly that last season, but this one was much closer. The Saints led by just a point at the half before a 22-11 advantage in the third quarter increased their lead to 51-39. Danny Odem paced Farrell with 27 points and Dontaye Bell had 14.

Union (17-12), the third-place qualifier from the WPIAL, coughed up a five-point halftime lead in an 80-73 loss to District 6 champion Bishop Carroll (18-10) at Norwin. Braylon Thomas pumped in 31 points and Lucas Stanley added 24 for Union, which fell short of reaching the semifinals for the second year in a row. The Scotties had won 11 of their previous 13 games, including a two-point win against Elk County Catholic in the second round. Union led Bishop Carroll, 35-30, at the half before the Huskies pulled even at 55-55 after three quarters. Bishop Carroll then scored a bucket early in the fourth and led the rest of the way. Luke Repko tallied 22 points to lead a group of five Bishop Carroll players scoring in double-figures. The Huskies, who lost to Union in the second round in 2022, will play in their first semifinal since 2018.


Class 5A

Franklin Regional 63, Shaler 51

Moon 67, Bethel Park 51

Class 4A

Hampton 60, Eastern York 54

Lincoln Park 89, North Catholic 74

Class 1A

Bishop Carroll 80, Union 73

Imani Christian 70, Farrell 60

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at