The Panthers, after scoring 20 points in the first quarter, had been limited to just 30 over the next 23 minutes and were in need of a spark. After a timeout, Franklin got the ball into the hands of junior Chris Edgehill (13 points, five assists), and he took advantage of a Taunton miscommunication after a double screen to get enough separation for a three with 20 seconds left, helping secure a 50-45 win over Taunton.
“It was absolutely a grind,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Getting off to a great start helps a lot especially when you aren’t playing your best in the middle quarters. The second and third quarters we got really stagnant on offense. We stopped doing everything we did in the first quarter that was working. We weren’t running the floor as hard, we weren’t cutting or screening as hard, we weren’t reacting off screens really well. The motion got stymied, we weren’t moving the ball.”
Franklin was nearly flawless in the opening quarter, racing out to an 18-2 lead over the first six and a half minutes finishing with a 20-6 advantage after one. The Panthers shot 54% from the field and forced seven turnovers to build a big lead.
What looked like a potential blowout slowly turned into a dogfight as the Tigers scratched and clawed their way back in the game. Taunton’s defense stepped up to limit Franklin to just nine points in the second quarter while its offense found a grove, scoring 17.
Quinn (13 points) and John Martins (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists) each hit a three, preceded by a bucket by Vendrell. Two free throws from Dante Law (who missed the majority of the game with foul trouble and fouled out with 5:36 left on a questionable call) cut the deficit to four, 22-18, before Franklin answered with three straight points. Law, Edgehill, Vendrell, Jalen Samuels, and Naz Kenion all missed minutes on the second due to foul trouble.
Taunton’s bench was able to provide a spark with Tyler Stewart (six points, five rebounds), Josh Lopes, Fabio Goncalves, and Krishon Nairne (two rebounds, block) coming to to give the Tigers some valuable minutes. A late three-point play from Jack Rudolph extended Franklin’s lead to eight but Martins responded with a triple. Franklin led 29-23 at half.
“That first quarter was one of the best quarters we’ve had all season,” Neely said.”I think what happens is you get that lead early, you start feeling like you don’t have to work as hard. You start taking some bad shots and then they hit a couple and make a couple of hustle plays, and all of a sudden it’s a close game. Those guys play hard, they are a good team, they have a lot of pride. I give them a lot of credit, they battled back and took a lead on us after going down big. Taunton did a good job, I was impressed with their fight.”
Quinn sandwiched two buckets around one from Martin to knot the game early in the third, and a bucket in low from Stewart gave Taunton its first lead at 31-29.
“In the second and third quarters, we did a nice job defensively,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “But with our offense, we have to maximize our opportunities and I felt like we had too many quick shots tonight. We have to be more patient and run our stuff.”
That’s when the Panthers turned to Samuels (12 points, eight rebounds), a senior captain, to weather the Tigers’ push. Samuels answered with a nice take to tie the game, and then used a two-handed flush to put Franklin back ahead. Samuels made a heads up play on defense, intercepting a pass and going the length of the court for a bucket while being fouled. His free throw completed the three-point play and put Franklin up 36-35.
“That’s a classic Jalen game, when we need him most he shows up,” Neely said. “Those takes to the rim late were huge for us. Defensively, he just finds a way, I know his back is killing him but he had some nice rebounds. I thought he made all the big plays for us down the stretch for us besides Chris’ three.”
Taunton closed the third with a mini 4-0 run – a free throw from Kenion, a layup from Stewart, and a technical free throw from Martins – to make it 36-35 heading into the final frame.
Will Harvey (12 points, seven rebounds) scored early and then capitalized on a Taunton turnover by adding a free throw to put Franklin up 39-37. Thomas Gasbarro and Kenion traded buckets before Samuels extended Franklin’s lead to four with 3:38 to play.
Taunton had three looks but couldn’t convert but Quinn pickpocketed Edgehill at half court and went in for two to make it 43-41. Harvey hit a free throw after being fouled on an offensive rebound and Gasbarro drove to the basket for two after a Taunton turnover to make it 46-41 with 1:30 to go.
“We just talked about what’s made us great over the years and that’s defense and that’s what we have to rely on now,” Neely said. “So down the stretch I went with more of a defensive lineup so we could get some stops. Putting Tom and [Jake] Macchi in there, they really grinded it out. Tom made some big plays for us, got some turnovers and gave us a huge lift defensively.
Quinn scored on a putback after a missed three Franklin got a stop and Vendrell drove to the basket for two with 39.8 left but Edgehill’s triple sealed the win.
Franklin boys basketball (4-2 Hockomock, 6-3 overall) is back in action on Tuesday when it travels to North Attleboro. Taunton (4-2, 7-3) will try to bounce back when it travels to Milford on the same day.
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