But in Tuesday night’s contest between Attleboro and Franklin, with points more valuable than GameStop’s stock, an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter from the hosts made all the difference.
Attleboro senior Alec Eaton hit back-to-back three-pointers and junior Evan Houle added a jumper as the Bombardiers turned a four-point deficit into a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, an advantage they never relinquished — though it was close — in a 42-40 win over Franklin.
Franklin made it a one-point game, 39-38, with just under a minute to go before Attleboro senior Justin Daniels (10 points, four rebounds) hit a pair of free throws. The Bombardiers’ edge grew by one, 42-38, after Daniels sank another from the line following a Franklin turnover.
Franklin got a second chance after a miss when Zach Harvey grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it to Andrew Byfield (12 points) for a long two (his foot was on the line) to make it 42-40 but there was just 3.4 seconds left.
The Bombardiers tried to kill the clock with a long pass down court but the ball slipped and went out of bounds, giving the Panthers one final chance. Without a timeout, Franklin ran a play for a contested three that was just off the mark and the off-balance putback attempt also missed as Attleboro held on.
“I think the message is that every possession matters in a game like that,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “We had a couple of executions of plays and some good finishes we had in the second half and I think that was the difference.
“[The 8-0 run] was the turning point when Alec his those two threes. That gave us the lead that we able to hold onto for the rest of the game.”
A back-and-forth first quarter saw the Bombardiers and Panthers combine for 30 points, the latter holding a slim 16-14 lead through eight minutes. With a total of seven three-pointers, it looked like the table was set for a barn-burner type game.
But instead, it was the total opposite. From the start of the second quarter, it turned into a game of stops instead of runs.
Defense shined in the middle quarters for both teams. A clean look at the basket became harder to come by than predicting the snow total from a New England winter storm. The teams combined for a total of just six points in the second quarter, going a combined 3-for-24 from the floor.
“Extremely frustrating,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “I thought we had a lot of really good looks. To score 40 points and feel like you got a lot of good looks is a weird thing to say but it felt like we had our opportunities to extend our lead or make some shots that could have put us in a good position to win the game but unfortunately, we just didn’t finish. I know our shooting percentage wasn’t pretty. [Attleboro] played hard, they did a good job, they are a physical team that plays really hard. Hopefully we can make more looks on Thursday.”
While each offense found a little bit more rhythm in the third, both sides were limited to single-digit scoring once again. Byfield had half of the Panthers’ eight points, including a breakaway left-handed slam after a steal near midcourt. Attleboro’s Evan Houle (10 points) hit a three with less than a minute to bring his team within one, 26-25, going into the fourth. It was the first made three from either team since the first quarter.
“We know [Franklin] is going to come in here and defend,” Houle said. “That’s a well-coached team and they are going to be tough on defense from start to finish. I thought we matched them on defense for a little while too. I give my guys credits for defending tonight, there were some times we had some lapses on some slips where they got some good looks that we have to work on. But I thought we battled hard on the inside. I thought both Jake Struminski and Chris Holcomb came in and played well for us. Those two guys played hard and made an impact in the game.”
Franklin seemed to grab the momentum to start the fourth, scoring on back-to-back possessions as Jake O’Brien (13 points, 10 rebounds) converted a pass from Ben Harvey, and senior Declan Walmsley (15 points, nine rebounds) knocked down a three. Two plays later, Harvey came up with a steal and O’Brien converted a putback, and the Panthers, who didn’t attempt a free throw in the game, had the momentum and a 33-29 lead.
After a timeout, the Bombardiers came out and hit the most important shot of the game. A skip pass from Houle found Eaton alone in the corner and he buried a three to make it a one-point game. Struminski gobbled up a rebound after a Franklin miss and this time Eaton took a nice pass from Alvin Harrison and drained another three, this from the opposite corner.
The Bombardiers got a stop after the Panthers used up nearly the entire shot clock. On the other end, Houle drove to his left and pulled up for a 10-footer with four seconds on the shot clock to make it 37-33 with three minutes to play.
“It doesn’t seem like much at first but that’s a lot in a game like this,” Neely said of the 8-0 run. “We helped off of a shooter when I didn’t think we needed to and credit to them, they did a good job skipping it over the top finding him and he made them.
“I think the frustration built a little bit inside the guys. Instead of moving on to the next play, it seemed like they were worried about the last miss they had instead of making the next shot. We have to be tougher than that mentally and be better than that.”
Walmsley made his second three of the quarter to make it a one-point game with just under two minutes to go. Daniels hit two from the line but O’Brien drove to the rim to make it 39-38, setting up the frantic finish.
Franklin (4-5 Kelley-Rex, 4-5 overall) will try to snap its current skid when it hosts the Bombardiers (5-2, 7-2) in a rematch on Thursday.