Franklin used a pair of those short spurts to create enough separation and delivered a signature tough defensive effort in a 45-28 win over North Attleboro.
With both squads playing their best on the defensive end, points were especially hard to come by early on.
Franklin’s first field goal came with 6:31 left in the first quarter, and North tied it with 3:41 to play as the teams combined for just four points over the opening six minutes.
But in the last two minutes of the opening frame, Franklin’s offense came to life with an 8-0 run. Sophomore Chris Edgehill (eight points) drained a step back three and hit one of two free throws to start the run. Paul Rudolph scored in transition and Matt Elias converted an offensive rebound shortly before the buzzer to give the Panthers a 10-2 lead after one.
Franklin kept that lead for the majority of the second quarter, leading 19-10 entering the final two minutes of the half. Edgehill got the run started again with a strong take to the rim, Jalen Samuels (nine points, nine rebounds) hit the first of two free throws and Elias drained a pair of threes inside the final minute, giving the Panthers a 28-10 lead at the break.
“It feels like a 16-0 run in a game like this,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Those runs are enormous. Seeing the ball go in the hoops is huge. It’s good to see Matt Elias come out and bury some shots. We know he’s capable of doing that. That’s his game, he’s a great catch and shoot player. He wasn’t himself the first couple of games so it was nice to see him out there tonight leading us in scoring.”
“That’s where I think you see experience factor in,” said North Attleboro coach Sean Mulkerrins. “I thought those two threes at the end of the second quarter really stung our guys mentally. If you take those two shots away, you’re going into halftime holding Franklin to 22 points. Those shots were just back breakers. And when you’re not putting the ball in the hoop, and give Franklin a lot of credit for that, it puts so much pressure on your defense to be perfect. And our defense was good, so those shots hurt even more.”
While Franklin’s offense was able to create separation with those runs, North Attleboro never got into a groove. Big Red turned it over 10 times, partly due to the pressure of Franklin guard Paul Mahon, playing in his first game of the season. While North’s defense forced nine turnovers of its own, the offense shot just 24% from the field in the first half, including just a pair of two-point field goals.
North Attleboro’s defense was just as strong in the second half, limiting the Panthers to under 10 points in each the third (nine points) and fourth (eight points) quarters. The Rocketeers held Franklin to 25% shooting from the field in the second half.
“[North Attleboro] did a great job defensively,” Neely said. “We’ve been struggling to score so far this season, and they were giving us some fits for a while. We were able to figure a couple things out and get some looks. But it was just one of those ugly games of basketball. We kind of like it, we’re not against it. But we wanted to be tougher after the Foxboro game.
“We really wanted to grind out stops, get on the loose balls, fight for rebounds. Looking at the scoreboard, we probably should have done some more offensive work in practice but the guys competed and I thought that was important.”
While North’s offense struggled, especially in the first half, the Rocketeers are hoping that it can build upon its strong defensive performance. North is just the fourth team since the beginning of last season to hold the Panthers to 45 or fewer points (Mansfield, Canton, Cambridge).
“I just told our guys that we have to look at this as a glass half full situation,” Mulkerrins said. “I thought our defense was good. I think there is another level though, and I think Franklin was an example of it tonight. The way they rotate, the way they move the ball….our guys were in the right places, and maybe its a lack of experience or technique, we just have to be a bit better on rotating. It was a great effort from our guys but we just have to put the ball in the hoop more.”
Franklin’s defense got a big boost on the defensive end with Mahon making his season debut. After missing the first two games of the season with an injury, the senior captain was back and made an immediate impact. While he will certainly have better offensive showings during the season, his presence on defense was felt immediately.
“Whoever he’s guarding is going to have a tough light,” Neely said. “Even if they get their points, they’re going to be annoyed, he’s going to bother them. He picks everyone up. When the rest of the team sees how he gets after a ball handler, it inspires everyone else behind him. He brings the toughness level up. He might tell you had a bad night, but he was very valuable for us tonight. He had a big night without having to score.”
Franklin boys basketball (2-1 Hockomock, 2-1 overall) is back in action on Thursday when it heads to Somerville High for a tournament, starting off against Malden Catholic. North Attleboro (1-2, 1-2) will look to bounce back the same day at Lincoln-Sudbury’s tournament when it takes on Reading at 5:00.
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