Tigers coach praised his players effort in the postseason game.
SLIPPERY ROCK -- The Sharon High boys basketball team was hoping for a better fate when the Tigers faced state-ranked Franklin in the opening round of the PIAA District 10-AAA playoffs Thursday night.
Faced with the possibility of not even qualifying for the playoffs one week ago, the Tigers had to win a play-in game with Erie East Tuesday night for their season to continue.
However, just as quickly as the Tigers qualified for the postseason, they departed with a 69-48 loss to the top-seeded Knights at Morrow Field House.
"All I asked from the kids was for them to play as hard as they could for as long as they could and they gave me that kind of effort," said Sharon coach Brian Hoover. "The kids left everything out on the floor and with the way they battled just to get here, I couldn't be happier."
Playing patiently out of the chute, the Tigers took a 5-0 lead on a basket by Justin Gartner and a 3-pointer from Terry Shernisky.
However, Guiseppe Barone went to work from long range for the Knights, hitting four consecutive 3s to spark Franklin to an 18-9 lead after one period.
"He [Barone] got hot and their big boy [Nate Byham] showed signs of hurting us so I told the kids that if we were going to get beat, someone else was going to do it," said Hoover.
Tigers claw back
Byham gave the Knights a 20-9 lead 15 seconds into the second quarter with a bucket, but from that point on, the Tigers clawed their way back into the game, putting together an 11-2 run to cut the margin to 22-20 with three minutes remaining.
Franklin answered with five unanswered points to once again lead by seven, but the Tigers, behind the efforts of Anthony Scott, went to work on both ends of the floor and cut their deficit to three points (27-24) at halftime.
"That is just a testament to their will," said Hoover.
"I don't ever want these kids to quit in any game and they didn't tonight. That is what we teach these guys and that is what we are trying to do with this program."
In the second half the Knights steadily pulled away to a 10-point lead after three periods before stretching it to the final buzzer.
"You know we only had one kid who had any playoff experience at all and that was Justin [Gartner]," said Hoover. "I think it [lack of experience] showed a little bit tonight, but I can't complain now because now everybody on this team knows what it is like to be here and play hard. Hopefully we can build on that."
Despite the loss, the future looks bright for the Tigers.
"We lose Justin and Terry [Shernisky], but we have everybody back," said Hoover.
"Hopefully we learned something from this experience because we certainly have some building blocks for the future."
Barone led all scorers in the game with 19, while Byham added 15 and Jake Hasson scored 11 for the Knights.
For Sharon, Scott led the way with 14 points and Gartner added 13 points.