FRANKLIN, Mass. – They say defense wins championships.
It also gets you to the big game.
Franklin became the first team to limit the Tigers to less than 50 points this season, survived a last second offensive possession from Taunton and walked with a 50-48 win.
The game between Franklin (15-3, 14-1) and Mansfield (17-2, 14-1) on Friday will determine who is the lone winner of the Kelley-Rex division of the Hockomock League.
With the Panthers up by one, senior Markus Bohmiller drained a three from the corner with just under a minute to play after Taunton was whistled for an illegal screen down the other end. Bohmiller’s bucket put Franklin up 50-46, but Taunton senior Corey Green quickly answered with a 15-foot jumper down the other end to cut the deficit to two.
Franklin was unable to convert on the other end, setting Taunton up for a chance to tie or win it with 15 seconds to go. Seeing as the first meeting went to quadruple overtime with four buzzer beaters, it almost seemed like destiny.
However, the Panthers were able to prevent any extra frames this time as Taunton’s contested 12-foot jumper went long and the buzzer sounded.
“We pride ourselves on the defensive end of the floor,” Franklin head coach CJ Neely said. “We like our offense but we’ve defined our team as a defensive first team. We want to lock teams up. We can play defense anytime. No matter if the shots are going or if this guy is having an off night, we can rely on defense.
Bohmiller finished with a game-high 22 points, with 16 of them coming in the second half.
“Markus has been huge for the past couple of weeks,” Neely said. “Throughout the year we’ve challenged him and he’s responded time and again. This is just another example of what kind of kid and what kind of player he is. He had a slow start but he’s bought in to everything we were doing. He’s starting to go to the rim, he’s not just a shooter anymore. He makes his teammates better, he defends, he battles for rebounds. He’s really become a complete player throughout the year and I’m really proud of him.”
The Panthers got off to a strong start, opening the game on a 7-2 run to take a 14-9 lead after the first quarter. Things looked even better for Franklin when they started the second quarter on an 11-2 run over the first 3:30 of the frame, building a 25-11 cushion.
But that would be all the points Franklin would score for the quarter as Taunton finished the final four and a half on a 14-0 run to send the game into the break tied 25-25.
The third quarter was mostly back and forth, with Franklin eventually building a 40-33 lead after two free throws from Marcus Giese. Taunton’s Tommy MacLean the near two minute drought for the Tigers with a three to cut the lead to four heading into the final frame.
In the game, Taunton only once had a lead (9-7 in the first quarter after a basket from Matt Midouin). The Tigers tied the game at 40 after a 15-foot jumper from straight away from Green, but Franklin answered with a three from Bohmiller. Taunton got within one again but two more free throws from Shawn Hanley (10 points, seven rebounds) pushed the lead back to three.
“We spent the whole night climbing, climbing, climbing trying to get back,” Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey said. “We tied it but we just couldn’t get over the hump with that key possession. We ran some stuff and got some decent stuff but we just couldn’t get it to fall.”
Beyond Bohmiller and Hanley, Tim Prunier finished with nine points, three rebounds and three assists, Dylan Reno had four points, five rebounds and five assists and Giese had three points to go along with eight rebounds.
Green paced Taunton with 19 points – 10 coming in the final quarter – while MacLean added 11 points, five rebounds and three assists, sophomore EJ Dambreville had six points eight boards and three assists and Midouin had six points and six boards.
Taunton (13-4) will try to snap their two game skid on Friday when they host Attleboro. The de facto Kelley-Rex title game is set for Friday as Franklin travels to Mansfield for a 6:30 tip off.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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