Fourth Quarter Lead Slips Away From Franklin in Loss

Marcus Giese

Franklin’s Marcus Giese goes up for two against St. John’s in the second half. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
WORCESTER, Mass. – Franklin came out flying in the first half, but it was the polar opposite for the Panthers in the fourth quarter.
Franklin’s offense went cold down the stretch and St. John’s walked away with a 61-56 win in the D2 Central Semifinals.
The Panthers led by as much as six with just over five minutes to play, but the Pioneers closed the contest on a 13-2 run as Franklin couldn’t get anything to go offensively.
Tim Prunier came away with a steal and converted on the fast break to make it 54-48 Franklin with 5:23 to go, but Franklin wouldn’t score another field goal for the game. Drew Vittum converted two free throws and then Adham Floyd drained a three to cut Franklin’s lead to just one.
Franklin came up empty on a three point shot on the other end and couldn’t get the outback to fall either. Stephen Palecki drained to free throws to put St. John’s up by one – 55-54 – with just under two minutes to play Prunier sank two free throws of is own just 10 seconds later to give Franklin the lead back.
After each team came up empty, Floyd converted a fast break layup while being fouled. He missed the free throw but on the end, Franklin again came up empty on a three point try, this one by Shawn Hanley. and Palecki muscled his way to the defensive board and was quickly fouled. Palecki converted both, putting St. John’s up 59-56. Franklin called a timeout with 18.2 seconds left and worked the ball around the perimeter before Dylan Reno was forced to take a deep three with a hand in his face that was off the mark. Vittum added two more free throws to seal it.
“Defensively for them, they clamped up pretty good it was tough to get anything,” Franklin head coach CJ Neely said. “Floyd made two big shots, the three we didn’t really close out, those were two huge momentum changers. We were able to battle and keep it close but they just made a couple of extra plays. I thought our turnovers killed us. The message coming in was we needed to rebound and if we don’t turn it over, we’ll blow them out. The first quarter we did exactly what we wanted to.”
It was a great great for the Panthers, who connected on four of their first five three point attempts and raced out to a big lead. Behind a 12-2 run in the second half of the opening frame, Franklin had a 20-10 lead after the first quarter.
St. John’s started with an 11-5 run in the second quarter to make it a four point game but over the next couple of minutes, the Panthers got going again and stretched their lead to eight at 34-26 when Hanley drained a three. The Pioneers quickly rattled off five points but Franklin went into the break with a 34-31 lead.
The third quarter was a tale of two halves. Franklin seized its biggest lead of the game at nine, 42-33, when the Panthers came out with a 8-2 run capped by two free throws by Marcus Giese with 3:37 left in the third. But less than three minutes later, St. John’s had a 9-0 run, punctuated by a layup from Nicholas Lukasevicz off a nice pass from Vittum.
In the final seconds, Reno drove to the basket for two and after a big stop, Reno converted a putback just before the buzzer to give Franklin a 46-42 lead after three.
In the first half, Franklin shot nearly 60% from the floor. In the second half, Franklin shot just under 26% from the field and were held without a three pointer (0/5).
“It’s definitely disappointing,” Neely said. “I’m really proud of the kids for what they did but I really thought we had that game going the way we wanted to go. It just slipped out of our hands in the fourth quarter.
We didn’t go a great job of finishing our drives to the rim. I thought we were getting in there but we were taking pull ups or fading layups rather than creating the contact and getting to the free throw line.”
Franklin finishes the season 18-6 with its only losses coming to teams that are either in sectional finals or semifinals.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
Ryan Lanigan
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