The Panthers used a full court press and a handful of traps to force 21 turnovers and come away with a 72-51 win over North Attleboro in both teams’ season opener.
“I thought defensively we did a pretty good job,” Franklin head coach CJ Neely said. “I thought we were taking too many chances a little bit. Even though we were pressing and we wanted to create a crazy environment, I think one of the reasons [North Attleboro] had a high scoring percentage is because we were taking a lot of chances. Once we got it down, we were able to turn them over and get some stops.”
Franklin outscored the visitors 16-12 in the first quarter while forcing eight turnovers in just the opening frame. By halftime, the Panthers opened up a near double-digit lead, heading into the locker room up 30-21.
Big Red cut the deficit to four late in the second quarter but junior Matt Elias hit a three and freshman Chris Edgehill rattled off five straight points to give the Panthers the nine point lead at the break.
“With any freshman or first year guy, you take the good with the bad sometimes,” Neely said. “Chris had some really good stretches, he plays confident. There were some errors too but that was part of being young. He gave us a lift when we needed it.”
But North Attleboro had a strong start to the second half, opening the third quarter with a 9-2 run. North Attleboro’s Jonny Friberg (12 points, eight rebounds) and Franklin’s Josh Macchi traded baskets before the Rocketeers rattled off seven straight. Kyle McCarthy (eight points) drained a three off a turnover and Brent Doherty (16 points, four rebounds, three assists) and Chad Peterson (four points, four rebounds) converted back to back buckets to get within two and force a timeout.
Franklin responded as Connor Peterson (13 points, five rebounds) buried a put back and then a pair of turnovers led to a jumper from Connor Goldstein and then a three point Paul Mahon, who scored a career-high 23 points to pace the Panthers offense, to restore Franklin’s nine point edge.
“We had individual meetings and I told Paul he needed to look to score more,” Neely said. ”He’s passing to everyone and giving up shots. I love his unselfishness but when you’re open, we need him to shoot. He gets the assists, gets the rebounds, covers the other team’s best defenders but he can score and we need that. I’m happy for him because he deserves it, he works hard.”
Tom Reynolds converted a breakaway layup to bring the Rocketeers within eight at 53-45 with five minutes to go but Franklin answered right away with Mahon draining one of his four three pointers. Macchi added another put back and Jack Rodgers converted a three point play with just under four minutes to play to put Franklin up 61-45.
The Panthers were able to sustain that lead, even stretching it to 23 (72-49) on another offensive rebound and put back by Peterson.
“Franklin was getting shots off turnovers, they were getting second chance points,” North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins said. “We weren’t getting the ball more than the one shot, the one possession. They certainly had a lot more possessions overall. The other thing was back breaking threes. I give CJ a lot of credit, they shared the ball and reversed the ball really well.
“We talk about being resilient but its tough when you fight for 20-25 seconds and then one defensive breakdown, or a loose ball goes to them. And they have so many weapons out there. They have so many parts that are equal so it’s hard to handle. On our end, 72 points is way too much but I thought the heart, the effort and the senior leadership was great. If we can just finish possessions, play four quarters then I’ll take that effort every night.”
North Attleboro (0-1, 0-1) will host Taunton (1-0, 1-0) on the same night.
“This was a big win,” Neely said. “Doherty is a great player and Friberg is a problem on the inside but the other guys around them are good too. Guys like [Chad] Peterson and McCarthy can make shots. When we lost them, they made us pay. It’s good to get a good win against a team that has aspirations to be the Davenport champ.”
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