It’s quite a feat to pull off a 21-0 regular season, like the one the General McLane boys basketball team compiled this year, picking up the Region 7 championship in the process.
Yet, a fat lot of good it did the Lancers when it came playoff time, getting saddled with Franklin (18-5) for a District 10 Class AAA quarterfinal battle.
The two playoff rivals meet up tonight at 8 p.m. at Edinboro University’s McComb Fieldhouse.
Not that this early competitive matchup was some sort of mistake by the D-10 basketball committee. The thing was, any draw the Lancers got from Region 6 would have been a tough one. If not Franklin, it could have been Hickory, Sharon or Grove City. Grove City won the region, the other three ended up tied for second, just a game off the Eagles’ pace.
“Any one of these teams could have been one, two, three or four,” said McLane coach Andy Schulz. “There was not a whole lot of advantage being the top seed from our region.”
The tight Region 6 race didn’t make scouting very easy for the Lancers either.
“It caused some headaches for coaches trying to scout and prepare,” said Schulz. “You didn’t know what was going to happen. We didn’t know until 8:30 (Tuesday) night who we were going to play.”
McLane had to wait for the result of Tuesday’s play-in game between Franklin and Harbor Creek, which the Knights won 54-38.
That set up tonight’s meeting, which will be the ninth postseason meeting between McLane and Franklin since the 2000-01 season.
“Over the last 15 years we’ve played each other, I think, 13 times in the playoffs,” said Franklin head coach Jason Fulmer. “I told the kids, it’s one thing to have rivalries in your region. But when you have a playoff rivalry, that’s in a class all its own — the intensity, the one-and-done nature of it, the atmosphere. ... These kind of games just come down to a battle of wills.”
The last time these two met was last year during a terrific triple-A championship tilt.
In that contest, there were 10 lead changes, and McLane missed two desperation 3-pointers with time running out to allow Franklin to take the crown with a 59-56 victory.
Both teams are slightly different this time around. McLane graduated point guard Luke Jahn. But the Lancers still have the bulk of last year’s squad intact — like leading scorers Jaymon Mason (18.4 points per game), a junior guard; Quinn Thompson (11.9 ppg.), a junior forward; and Chad Kulka (10.2 ppg.), a senior forward.
“Mason is an extraordinary athlete,” said Fulmer. “He’s a great all-around player. (Senior guard) J.R. Mountain is a great 3-point shooter. Thompson, he’s bulked up, he’s even bigger and more impressive inside. And Kulka plays his type of game, scrappy, does a great job.
“They’re just a solid basketball team. You don’t get to be 21-0 by being mediocre.”
Franklin will be without the services of a couple graduated guards in Cody Trinch and Isaiah Jordan, the latter of whom led the Knights with 18 points in last year’s meeting.
However, the Knights are not short of weapons, not with guys like 6-foot-5 senior Dillon King and 6-8 junior center Noah Jones. King is averaging 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while Jones is scoring 11.4 points with 7.9 boards per contest.
“They’re very good,” said Schulz. “King is really an outstanding shooter and scorer. And Jones really does a great job, especially rebounding the ball.
“And their guards are getting better. I’ve seen them play a few times and I’m impressed with how they’ve been coached and how they’re playing.
“We have to be at our best to compete with them (tonight). I think they are a very good team.”
Pete Chiodo can be reached at 724-6370 ext. 275 or by email at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter @Tribune_Sports and like us on Facebook.