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Franklin Regional works on finishing moves in win over Greensburg Salem | TribLIVE.com
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Franklin Regional works on finishing moves in win over Greensburg Salem

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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Dante Parsons pushes offense on Franklin Regional's defender Johnny O'Toole (right) on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 during the second day of the Hempfield High School boys' basketball tournament.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's head coach Mark Zahorchak talks to his team between periods against Franklin Regional on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 during the second day of the Hempfield High School boys' basketball tournament.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Ryan Thomas looks for an opening on net against Franklin Regional on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 during the second day of the Hempfield High School boys' basketball tournament.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Nick Leopold looks for an opening down court through Greensburg Salem defense on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 during the second day of the Hempfield High School boys' basketball tournament.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Dante Parsons jumps for a shot on net through Franklin Regional defense on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 during the second day of the Hempfield High School boys' basketball tournament.

Franklin Regional went to a half-court offensive set late in Saturday afternoon’s game against Greensburg Salem.

The plan was to move the ball around and drain time off the clock, but it also gave coach Steve Scorpion an opportunity to get the Panthers accustomed to a style they might need later in the season: win now, prepare to win later.

A key to switching from an up-tempo style to a motion offense is having a generous lead. The Panthers did, and they made a double-digit advantage stand on the way to a 52-40 win at the Hempfield tip-off tournament.

Getting some reps on a potential finishing move down the road was a bonus for the Panthers, who moved to 2-0. They defeated Belle Vernon, 68-41, on Friday.

“That was a set I ran in college (at Pitt-Johnstown),” Scorpion said. “You want to move it around and kill time. The idea is to get easy layups. If (the opponent) doesn’t have the ball, they can’t score.

“We had a few chances to (get layups), but we passed them up. We have to learn how to finish games.”

Senior guard Thomas Merante helped build that safe-space cushion with four 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a game-high 16 points. His third make from deep gave the Panthers their first double-digit advantage (22-11) and his fourth made it 33-18 just before the half.

“Thomas shot it well, and that was big today,” Scorpion said.

Senior guard Nick Leopold added 12 points, nine in the first half, and junior 6-foot-7 center Johnny O’Toole added 10, eight across the first two quarters. The more traditional big man showed nice touch from the perimeter on a couple of shots.

Greensburg Salem (1-1), coming off an energetic win over rival Hempfield on Friday, continues to get accustomed to new coach Mark Zahorchak’s system. The Golden Lions never led, but closed the gap to 33-21 by halftime on a 3-pointer from junior guard Dante Parsons. But the momentum did not carry over as they managed just eight points in the third, all from senior guard Jack Oberdorf, who finished with 13 points. Parsons had 10, all in the first half.

“It was a different atmosphere today for sure,” Zahorchak said. “Our guys were ready to play. It’s just that Franklin Regional is a very good team. They take away your strengths and make it difficult to score. There’s a reason they were in the WPIAL final last year.”

After an Oberdorf 3, the Panthers went on a 9-0 run to stretch the advantage to 45-24. Senior Harrison Deller’s jumper from the elbow capped the surge.

“We were concerned with Greensburg,” Scorpion said. “They have a ton of experience back, and they have guys who can shoot. We did a nice job on Parsons in the second half, but Oberdorf hurt us in the second.”

With the Panthers’ foot off the gas, Greensburg Salem cut it to 12 (52-40) on back-to-back hoops from junior Ryan Thomas, who finished with eight points.

“We had some dry runs today,” Zahorchak said. “We need to score more. This was a good litmus test for us. It’s a process and everyone learns their roles.”

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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