Although the Panthers led from start to finish and had a double-digit for most of the second half, the win wasn’t secured until the final buzzer. Oliver Ames refused to go away, even cutting the deficit to six with two minutes to play but Franklin was money at the free throw line late, coming away with a 63-50 win over the resilient Tigers.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how it looks, as long as you get the win…it wasn’t our prettiest game, it wasn’t our best performance but we grinded out a win in a tough environment,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “The OA kids played hard, I thought they were all over the place rebounding wise and they were first to all the loose balls. I thought out first half defense was excellent…but 31 points is too much in the second half. It was a tough game, ugly game, but we’ll take it.”
Sophomore Chris Edgehill led the way offensively, tying a career-high with 28 points while Franklin went 11-for-12 at the free throw line over the final two minutes to secure the victory.
“We were one big play away from getting it to a one-possession game somehow,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “But Franklin kept us just enough at arm’s length where they probably didn’t feel like they were getting tested. But on our side, we never really felt like we were out of it, the kids just kept coming and coming. That’s the biggest thing to come out of this one…can we compete with the best the state has to offer? And I think we did.”
Franklin closed the opening quarter with an 8-2 run to seize a 17-10 lead through eight minutes. The Panthers limited OA to just nine points in the second quarter, but the Tigers’ defense also kept Franklin’s offense in check (10 points), heading into half down 27-19.
The Panthers’ 11-point lead in the third quarter was trimmed down to just five behind baskets from OA’s Jake Erlich (13 points) and Jack Spillane (15 points, seven rebounds, four assists). But before the Tigers could get any closer, Edgehill drained a three to spark a 13-4 run.
Edgehill followed his triple with a strong take to the rim, and Paul Mahon (six points, four assists, three rebounds) had an easy take after a nice pass from Matt Elias (eight points, three rebounds). Franklin cashed in on back-to-back OA turnovers with both Edgehill and Paul Rudolph finishing traditional three-point plays.
“I thought [Edgehill] was very good offensively, especially getting inside,” Neely said. “We got the ball moving on offense and he was the recipient of those and hit some threes. He’s an electric creator off the dribble and he was able to get into the paint and draw a lot of contact. I think he found some guys and we missed some layups too. Tonight, I think someone needed to step up and he did.”
Franklin took a 43-31 lead into the final frame.
The Panthers led by as much as 14 early on in the fourth, and then a triple from Edgehill with three minutes to play had Franklin leading comfortably 52-39.
But once again, OA got right back into the game when Spillane hit a three while being fouled, finishing the four-point play a the line, and junior Sean O’Brien hit two free throws to make it 52-45 with two minutes to play.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be a free-flowing, easy going, up-and-down, everyone gets to run their offense type of game,” Byron said. “Our focus was to try and keep the game in the low 50s, high 40s. Not only are they going to do their part to make sure that happens, their games are all that way…but we did the same. We did the things we needed to do to have a shot.”
Jalen Samuels (12 points, four rebounds, three blocks) hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to nine but Spillane splashed a three to make it a two-possession game. OA came up empty on its next trip, missing a pair of three’s, and Franklin iced the game with successful free throw shooting.
Franklin boys basketball (3-1 Hockomock, 6-1 overall) is back in action on Tuesday when it hosts Taunton. Mansfield Olver aelxi (2-2, 4-3) resumes action with its fifth straight home game, hosting King Philip at 6:30.