By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
FRANKLIN, Mass. – In last year’s D1 Central Quarterfinals, Franklin survived a major scare from Acton-Boxboro en route to a 59-52 win. This year, Franklin made sure that scare never came, as the top-seeded Panthers played a near-perfect game from start to finish in a 79-49 win over #8 Lincoln-Sudbury.
“This year, we talked about that [the Acton-Boxboro game] at practice and said how you can’t walk in and look at your number one seed and think that’s going to do the job and get you to win games, you have to go out and show why you earned that seed, be the team you have been all season that’s put you in the great position you’re in now, and I thought we did that tonight,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely about his team’s performance.
Franklin started the game out on a 10-2 run that included five points from Matt Elias (seven points), but L-S went on a 5-0 run behind threes from Kahmari Williams (11 points) and Jack Sorbo to cut the Franklin lead to 10-8 midway through the first quarter.
But Franklin dominated the rest of the half, using a 30-9 run, highlighted by 11 points and three steals from Paul Mahon (19 points, four steals) and seven points off the bench from Will Harvey. The run gave the Panthers a 40-17 halftime lead.
Franklin stifled the Warriors defensively throughout the first half, holding them to just 24% shooting in the half and not allowing them to grab an offensive rebound.
“We had a good scout on them, we knew what was going on and the guys did a great job of executing the game plan right from the beginning, we didn’t give them anything easy at all,” Neely added. “I thought every shot they took was difficult, and then Jalen [Samuels] was an animal on the boards, and as a team, I thought the box outs were tremendous.”
In the third quarter, Franklin outscored L-S 20-12 with Paul Rudolph (seven points) scoring five points and Jalen Samuels (eleven points, 13 rebounds) chipping in with six points. A three by Rudolph with just under a minute to go in the quarter gave the Panthers a 30 point lead at 58-28, and a layup by Alex Klowan (four points) with 29 seconds left in the quarter extended the lead to 60-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Franklin turned to their bench for much of the fourth quarter, with Gavin Farnan chipping in six points and Jack Rudolph going 4-for-4 at the free throw line. Lincoln Sudbury pulled their starters with just over a minute to go where they got a nice ovation from the visiting crowd.
Franklin boys basketball (20-4) advances to the D1 Central Semifinal for the fifth straight season. They will take on #5 Natick at WPI on Sunday at 3:00. The only common opponent Franklin has with the Redhawks is Stoughton. Natick beat the Black Knights, 74-54, in a tournament game on December 30th. Franklin beat Stoughton, 93-58, in a Hockomock League game on January 26th.
“We gotta prepare for Natick the same way we prepared for these guys, we got to stay with the one game at a time mentality, we can’t look any further than Natick, they’re a really good team,” Neely said about Franklin’s upcoming opponent. “I’ve watched them play a couple times and they beat Newton North this year, they’re definitely a high powered team that we’re going to have to be ready for, so I’m not looking any further than Natick.”