The visiting Panthers held a 24-10 lead over the Hornets. Franklin held the hosts to just four first half field goals (4/26) and used that advantage to pick up a 52-40 win.
“We pride ourselves on the defensive side of the floor, that’s one of our staples,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Anytime you can hold [Mansfield] to 40 you’re going to be jacked up and excited. You know they can score the ball with the best of them, they were one of, if not the top, scoring team in the league. Usually we try to keep them in the 50s and we know its going to be grind. It was about playing 32 minutes and buying into the scouting report for all 32 minutes. The guys did a great job of focusing on the game plan.
“There were some lapses and Mansfield being Mansfield, pretty much every time we lapsed on the scouting report, they took advantage of it right away. At halftime we talked about just being true to the scouting report, follow the game plan and we’ll be fine and I think that worked out tonight.”
Franklin took just 3:14 to build a double-digit lead, racing out to 11-1 lead to start the game. The Panthers immediately went to Connor Peterson on their first post, resulting in two free throws in and the lead. Peterson also added a put back, Paul Mahon converted a layup and freshman Chris Edgehill had five points in the run, including a three pointer to cap the spurt.
Mansfield didn’t register its first field goal until 1:15 left in the quarter when Evan Christo took a bounce pass on a baseline cut for a layup.
John McCoy drained Mansfield’s first three of the game to get within five in the second quarter (13-8) but the Hornets only scored once more in the quarter with Sam Goldberg scoring down low with just over five minutes to play.
“They did a good job. Franklin had a great game plan and executed it to a tee,” Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan said. “They believed…I don’t know how much we believed. CJ did a good job of getting them to buy in. Even on offense when they had opportunities in transition and could have given us more possessions, they were disciplined, they were reversing the ball back out and getting a good quality shot. That’s hard to do as a high school kid, obviously CJ did a good job of getting his guys in position to do that.”
“That’s why this league is great, it’s why this is a great rivalry game…you have to show up to play. You have to make plays, follow game plans and do all the little things. I said a couple of weeks ago the one question mark was can we consistently do the little things and hold each other accountable doing those little things and tonight early, I thought we had some opportunities to score and we passed. Then we start pressing and we start shooting when we should have been passing. We never got the combo right. It’s party execution and its partly Franklin did an excellent job playing defense.”
Peterson scored a team-high 12 points and hauled in 10 rebounds while Mahon and Edgehill each had 11 points. Macchi finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
“When you have two big guys like Josh and CP, you’d be a fool not to try and get the ball in there as much as possible,” Neely said. “They doubled them and those guys did a nice job of reading the double team and finding open shooters when they did. And when they didn’t, they did a good job attacking the rim and did a real nice job of finishing around the rim.”
Mansfield matched its first half scoring in just over six minutes in the third quarter but Franklin matched them nearly bucket for bucket, holding a 33-20 lead after a putback from Christo.
The Hornets went 1/11 from three point in the first half, 1/4 in the third quarter and 1/5 in the final frame.
“You start to overthink the game,” Vaughan said. “Then the next shot becomes the biggest shot in the world because you don’t have a ton of points and the separation that’s created. We never went on a run that we typically go on. We usually find an 8-0 or 10-0 run and we just couldn’t find one and again that’s partly to Franklin doing a great job executing CJ’s game plan and just us being a little more accountable and a little more focused and execute the game plan a little bit better.”
Matt Elias drained a three and Edgehill got a layup to fall to extend Franklin’s lead to 18 with under a minute to play in the third.
The Panthers shot 45% from the field overall, including 50% from two-point range. Mansfield hit just 25% of its shots from the field and just 15% from deep.
“Without giving away the company secrets, our goal is to get them into their second and third options,” Neely said. “They have a lot of really good players that have really good abilities individual. They are like an offensive machine, they work really well when everything is working together. If you can disrupt that machine a little bit and hopefully get guys in spots they aren’t used to being in. They missed a good amount of good looks in the first half. To hold them to 10, they have to miss shots too. You can’t hold a team to 10 without some bad luck for them.”
The teams traded buckets for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter but the Hornets finally clawed within 12 behind a three from Boulter with two minutes to play. Franklin went 10/15 from the free throw line in the final quarter to maintain the advantage built in the first half.
“We’re still in a great position,” Vaughan said. “We just have to figure a way to minimize mistakes and get back to playing the way we play instead of trying to adjust to what they do. Partly that’s on me as well. I have to do a better job of putting us in a better position to win. I thought we had an advantage somewhere and now at the end of the game, I’m not sure that advantage is there. Next time we play, over there, we’ll give them another dog fight, another classic.”