By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin typically likes to hangs its hat on defense.
But for at least one night, the Panthers relied on their offense to get the job done.
Franklin shot 50% from beyond the arc, connecting on 17 three pointers and never trailed in the second half in a 92-87 upset of Catholic Memorial, the defending D1 State Champions and the top ranked team in the state.
The Knights are ranked #1 by both ESPNBoston and The Boston Herald.
Freshman Jay Dieterle scored 16 of his team-high 24 points in the second half and sophomore Paul Mahon scored all 18 of his points in the second half to pace the Panthers.
“Taking them, making them, all of that’s kind of ridiculous and I think you need stuff like that to beat a team like CM,” Franklin head coach CJ Neely said of the team’s shooting from deep. “[CM’s] firepower is unbelievable. I think we held them to eight in the first quarter and they still put up 87 points. We usually pride ourselves on defense but this was a credit to our guys. I challenged them in the offseason to make 100 shots a day and they took it to heart and you can see the benefit of the guys who put in the work in the offseason.”
For the first quarter, it was Franklin’s defense that worked. The Panthers limited the Knights to just eight points while picking up a seven point cushion — a lead they would rely on for the rest of the game.
The second quarter is when the Panthers started to connect from deep. Tom Houlihan (16 points) connected on three of the team’s six three pointers in the second quarter. The Panthers then shot 10/18 from deep (5/11 in the third, 5/7 in the fourth) in the second half.
“It felt like we couldn’t hit a shot on Monday, we did a ton of shooting yesterday [in practice],” Neely said. “We had to have a light practice because we knew this one would be up and down. OA, they played us so hard so we had to go light so we took a lot of shots in practice and working on beating pressure. We were able to knock some down finally.”
Catholic Memorial was able to turn a five point deficit at halftime into a tie game early in the second half. Using a 12-5 run, the Knights tied the game 49-49 with a chance for a lead with an and-one free throw attempt. Instead, the shot rimmed out and Franklin’s Mahon hit a three on the other end.
The Knights refused to go away despite Franklin’s sharpshooting. A basket from CM’s Brandon Twitty (game-high 27 points) brought the Knights within seven in the fourth quarter at 68-61 with just over five minutes to play.
That’s when Dieterle really stood out. On Franklin’s ensuing trip up court. the freshman drained a wide open three pointer. As CM tried to push the pace and respond, Dieterle was able to get to the floor and take the loose ball. Eventually Franklin got possession of it and once again, Dieterle drained a three, extending the Panther’s lead to 74-61 with just over five minutes to play.
“I was just getting to the hoop more and more as the game went on and I just got more comfortable out there,” Dieterle said. “We all just put in work over the summer, we all got our shots a day…100 makes a day and it’s showing right now. This was amazing.”
After a timeout, the Knights rattled off nine straight points to make it a four point game but Dieterle took the ball to the rim for a finish plus the harm for a three point play. When CM got within five again, Houlihan hit his fifth three of the game to push the lead back to eight. Mahon then hit another three to make it an 11 point lead with two minutes to play.
“We’ve got a freshman out there playing like a senior, we’ve got Mahon burying shots, [Connor] Goldstein, Houlihan too” Neely said. “I mean all of those guys bought into making the 100 shots a day and that changes the way you can play the game when you have shooters that can space it like that.”
Despite fouling, Franklin kept its lead by going 11/13 from the free throw line in the second half. The Knights were 13/22 from the free throw line but just 4/11 in the second half.
“All credit to them, Franklin shots lights out,” CM head coach Denis Tobin said. “I said to our guys that we probably won’t play a team that will shoot this well the entire season. But Franklin made them, good for them they deserved it.”
Sam Harrell chipped in with six points, seven rebounds and five assists, Josh Macchi had 10 points, Kevin Gill scored six points, had seven assists and six rebounds and Tim Prunier had nine points. Prunier, who has been one of the top players in the Hockomock League, was limited because of foul trouble. He had two early in the second quarter and a charge early in the third quarter force him to the bench.
When asked what he would say if he was told before the game that the Panthers would score over 90 points and beat CM with Prunier scoring just nine, Neely said, “I would have been surprised. He’s obviously the leader of our team and he’s a great player but it goes to show that we’re not about one guy, we’ve got a whole team full of guys ready to play. They’ve played without Tim before, he’s been in foul trouble in basically every game we’ve played so far, so they’re used to it now. We have plenty of guys willing to step up and take shots. That was the message going in, to play with confidence and be aggressive. Right before we went out there I said play with an exclamation point.”
“It’s definitely hard having our leader out on the bench but he was great when he was on and everyone had to step up and everyone did,” Dieterle added.
Franklin (4-0) will have some time to rest now as they will be off until December 29th when they take on Algonquin in a non-league contest.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
Ryan Lanigan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of HockomockSports.com. You can contact him at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and follow him on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.