The Franklin boys basketball team is looking like it’s going to be one of those teams.
The Panthers had three players score 15 or more points, building a 12-point lead at halftime, going up by as much as 21 in the fourth quarter and then had to fend off a late charge from Taunton’s reserves to earn a 63-51 win on the road.
Sophomore Chris Edgehill scored eight of his 15 points in the opening quarter, senior Jack Rodgers netted seven of his game-high 17 points in the second quarter and senior Paul Mahon spread his 15 points out equally across the second, third and fourth quarters to pace Franklin.
“I thought as long as we shared the ball like we can, and have four or five guys touch it we would be in good shape,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “It’s about trusting each other and trusting the offense. We talked a lot in practice about trusting each other, screening for each other, believing in what we’re doing. If we do everything we need to, we’re going to get good looks. I think they did a nice job tonight of not caring who scored. Having three guys with 15 or more points is a great way to share it. That makes it so you can’t stop one guy.”
Edgehill got the offense going early, accounting for over half of the Panthers’ 15 points. He opened Franklin’s scoring with a layup, hit a three, and later converted a traditional three-point play.
The Panthers quickly turned their three-point lead to nine with an early 6-0 spurt in the second quarter. Rodgers scored back-to-back buckets, both on assists from Edgehill, and Alex Klowan capped the run on another feed from Edgehill.
Mahon hit an open three and Klowan converted an offensive rebound to keep the lead at 10. A layup from Mahon and a triple with under a minute to go from Rodgers pushed the lead to 14 but Prince Brown answered for Taunton to cut the deficit to 12 (32-20) at halftime.
“When you play a team like that, you have to step up,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “You have to focus and it’s happened all year long, at some point we lose our focus. Either take a bad shot, make a defensive error, and then the run begins for no other reason than we made one mistake. Then it becomes two mistakes, then it snowballs and all of a sudden you’re down a decent margin. It’s frustrating.”
“[Franklin] plays such a sound, simple game like Mansfield does. We’ve got athletes too. I’m impressed so much by the simplicity of the game of Mansfield and Franklin. We go off the rails, and we just can’t produce points automatically…we have to work, work, work.”
The game opened up in the third quarter with a much faster tempo, which typically favors the Tigers. Taunton scored 14 points in the frame — its best period so far. But Franklin was equally as comfortable with the speed of the game, having its best offensive quarter with 20 points.
“Taunton’s very fast and when you turn the ball over, they make you pay for it,” Neely said. “We talked a lot about taking care of the basketball and not letting them get offensive rebounds. When they those things happened, they hurt us. But we thought we could get some points in transition ourselves. When we had the chance, we looked for it.”
Edgehill and Naz Kenion traded threes to open the third, then Kenion and John Martins combined for five points to cut it to 42-30. Mahon then connected on five straight points, Lens Esquil and Dante Law answered with two apiece but three from Rodgers and two from Paul Rudolph gave Franklin a 52-34 lead at the end of the third.
“Franklin can go fast, they can go slow,” Dacey said. “Even without [Jalen] Samuels, they don’t seem to skip a beat. They still have the shooting, they still set the screens. They can still produce points from other places.
Mahon gave the visitors a 21-point lead on two free throws (58-37) with three and a half minutes to play. That signaled for both teams to go to the benches for their reserves. Taunton’s second unit made the base of the opportunity.
Michael Quinn drained a three, Brown scored with a strong take, Alex Midouin got to the free throw line for one after an offensive rebound and Malik Charles converted a putback for a traditional three-point play, finishing a 10-1 run over two minutes.
Franklin put its starters back into the game at that point. Quinn scored again to make it a 10-point game and after an Edgehill free throw, Midouin scored down low to cut it to nine. But Mahon hit two free throws and added another after a Taunton miss to ice the game.
“They scrapped, good for those kids,” Dacey said of his reserves. “I have to give it to them, made them put their starters back in. But you just don’t want to be so far out of it against the quality teams. It seems like we’re playing catch up the whole game, and that’s tough to do in high school.”
Lens Esquil led Taunton with 14 points and six rebounds while Brown and Quinn each had six points apiece.
Franklin boys basketball (12-1 Hockomock, 15-1 overall) stays in a tie atop the Kelley-Rex division with the win heading into Friday’s colossal clash with Mansfield. Taunton (6-7, 10-8) will try to bounce back when it travels to King Philip.
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