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SHARON – While it wasn’t the season’s start he’d hoped for, Coach Geoff Evans was encouraged in spite of his Penn State Shenango men’s basketball team’s 84-71 setback to Franciscan University.

“We learned a lot. We learned we’ve gotta get better from top to bottom – starting with myself – and really getting these guys more focused in on the defense end,” Evans assessed. “I thought at times we gave pretty good energy and effort, and there were times that we just lost guys in the half-court set, and that just can’t happen throughout the game.

“But,” Evans emphasized, “it’s first-game stuff. Obviously, from here, we’re just gonna keep workin’ harder and gettin’ better. That’s our goal.”

At Buhl Community Recreation Center, after 4 first-half lead changes the local Lions trailed 38-36 at intermission. NCAA Division III Franciscan never trailed during the 2nd half, though Shenango surged within 68-64 with 6:30 remaining on Ramell Askerneese’s pair of free throws. But that was as close as the Lions would come.

As per NCAA policy, Franciscan – a member of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference that is joining the Presidents’ Athletic Conference next season – cannot commence its campaign until Nov. 8, meaning Saturday was essentially a scrimmage for 4th-year Head Coach Joe Wallace’s Barons. Joe Schriner’s 14-point, 8-rebound, 5-assist line led Franciscan as the Barons boasted a quintet of double-digit scorers. Sean Hickey (15 points, including a trio of triples), T.Frankovitch (11 points, 10  rebounds), Joe Vernau (10 points, 7 rebounds), and Dalton Davis (10 points) forged Franciscan. Justin Mack mustered a handful of assists, also.

The Barons bombed 13 treys – 9 during the 1st half – and out-rebounded Shenango, 45-27. Franciscan fired in 30 of 62 floor shots (48.3) and 11 of 17 freebies (64.7)

Leading the local Lions (0-1) were Tyrone Steals (15 points), Anthony Bailey (12 points), Sharon High product Askerneese (10 points, 4 assists), Grove City High grad Brayden Martin (9 points, 6 rebounds), and Larry Ransom (8 points, 8 rebounds).

Shenango shot 25 for 55 from the floor (45.4 percent), but only 20 for 31 (64.5) from the free-throw line, and forced Franciscan into 22 turnovers. The Lions committed 13 miscues.

PSU-Shenango welcomes Kent State-Tuscarawas to the BCRC Wednesday at 7 p.m. More on the Lions’ season-opening loss will be included in an upcoming edition of The Herald.

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