FRANKLIN, Mass. – Oliver Ames came out aggressive, physical, intense, and playing well on the offensive end of the floor. The Tigers trailed by three points at the end of the first quarter in Friday night’s late half of a basketball doubleheader, but the game looked poised to be a four-quarter battle.
Eight minutes later, Franklin was in complete control. Using a 19-0 run to break the game wide open and dominating the paint with junior forward Connor Peterson (16 points), the Panthers turned a close game into a rout and cruised to a 75-42 win over OA in the first divisional meeting between the two teams.
“We started playing defense, got our heads out of our butts and played like we’re capable of playing,” said Franklin coach C.J. Neely about the second quarter turnaround. “I thought OA came in and out-toughed us in the first quarter…I thought we got the ball into CP finally and once we got him the ball and started dominating the inside it opened up the outside. The press helped a little bit too.”
OA coach Don Byron, who celebrated the 400th win of his career in the Tigers’ win over Barnstable, did not pull any of his punches after the game. He said, “We didn’t play in any facet of the game. There’s no other way around it. We didn’t compete, didn’t defend, didn’t rebound, didn’t fight the post, shot selection was bad…we just got beat in every phase.”
Nick Welch (game-high 17 points) sparked the Tigers in the opening quarter as he was able to get into the lane and find shooting space on his pull-up jumpers. He scored 11 of the 17 OA points in the first and Dylan Mahoney chipped in with four.
Against OA’s 2-3 zone, Franklin moved the ball well and stayed close in the first by knocking down shots from beyond the arc. Paul Mahon (11 points) buried three of them in a row for Franklin, two from one corner and then another from the opposite side, which gave the Panthers a 15-13 lead. Connor Goldstein knocked down his only shot of the game to make it 20-17 after one.
“I don’t think we were following the scouts well in the first half,” said Neely. “They were getting blown by to the guy’s strong hand and guys were getting their go-to moves and we talked about taking away their strength and make them go to their weakness.”
That all changed in the second. After the teams traded baskets, Franklin clamped down on the defensive end. The Panthers put pressure on the ball and limited OA from getting into the lane. They held the Tigers scoreless until inside the final two minutes of the half.
Peterson was the primary offensive weapon, as Franklin took advantage of OA missing senior forward Carter Evin and pounded the ball into the post. Peterson scored eight points in the second quarter including an alley-oop dunk off a Goldstein feed that got the crowd roaring.
“He’s one of five on the floor at any one time,” said Byron about Evin. “We’ve done better even when he isn’t around. He hasn’t been around for a couple now and I thought we could compensate a little for that but it’s just not good enough plain and simple.”
Macchi continued to play well in the third, adding another six points and being an energy player in all phases of the game. Neely said, “I said to him as we walked out, you’re the dirty work guy. You don’t get all the pub that everyone else gets but you do all those little things, rebound, screen…He’s playing very well for us and when CP is in there it really opens up things for him.”
Mahon went backdoor for a layup off a feed from Edgehill to make it 57-28 and that prompted both teams to turn to the benches with still nearly 12 minutes remaining in the game. Alex Klowan got the crowd going again for the Panthers with nine points in the final 1-1/2 quarters and Jack Rodgers had a pair of impressive blocks.
OA scored 17 points in the opening quarter but only managed 25 over the final 24 minutes. It was a performance that left Byron shaking his head on the Tigers bench.
When asked how the team bounces back from this setback, Byron said, “We come back Sunday and we’ll treat it like it’s an aberration but we have to prove it is an aberration to come out and have a performance like we did tonight.”
Franklin (6-2) will continue in division play over the next 11 days when it faces Taunton, Mansfield, and Attleboro. Oliver Ames (4-3) will try to turn things around quickly with a trip to King Philip on Tuesday.
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