Instead of letting the visitors’ momentum snowball, the Tigers fought back.
Taunton’s answer was an 11-2 run over the next three minutes, jumping back ahead for good in a 72-65 win over Franklin to give the Tigers a regular season sweep of the Panthers.
“It was what you’d expect for a Saturday morning game, it didn’t feel like either team was there defensively,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “We were out of it defensively all day. It was a close game in the second half and we were acting like we were down 20. We have to get over our mistakes quicker, we have kids that dwell on them too long.”
The Tigers carried a 55-51 advantage into the fourth quarter but the lead didn’t last long as the Panthers came out strong to start the final period. Jake O’Brien (13 points) finished through contact and Declan Walmsley (20 points, six rebounds, four assists) hit two from the line then drained a straightaway triple to put Franklin ahead 58-55, just its second lead after a brief one-point edge in the second quarter.
But there was no quit in the Tigers, orchestrating a run that would put them ahead for good. Senior Josh Lopes, who had been held scoreless through three quarters, hit one from the line and then finished off a traditional three-point play following a Franklin turnover.
Taunton got a stop and junior Trent Santos (nine points) dropped a pass down low for senior big man Tyler Stewart (15 points, 15 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, four assists) to finish. Franklin senior Zach Harvey (12 points, six rebounds, nine assists, three steals), who had a terrific all-around game for the Panthers, made a diving save out of bounds that resulted in a layup for Andrew Byfield to keep it a one-point game at 61-60.
“We spent a lot of time on the offense at practice after Thursday’s game, we knew we had to get better and take care of the ball better and have more effective movement,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely. “I thought the guys did a really good job, I was really happy with how we moved the ball and our patience. You could see what we’re capable of on offense when we moved the ball so hopefully, the guys learned their lesson.
“But we gave them too many opportunities on the defensive end, we didn’t secure enough rebounds or finish off defensive possessions like we usually do and that crushed us. You can’t let a really good team like that have second or third chances like that.”
Stewart, who drew double teams all game, showed off his passing skills with a nice feed to Faisal Mass (five points, six rebounds), who was cutting baseline for an easy two. Mass then blocked a putback attempt and two plays later, junior Tristan Herry (14 points, four rebounds) found Lopes for a big three and a 66-60 lead with under three minutes to go.
Walmsley answered for the Panthers with another three to make it a one-possession game but Santos confidently sliced through the defense and dropped in a floater as the clock ticked under two minutes to go. Franklin was off the mark on a three and Stewart pushed the lead to six on a free throw.
O’Brien found space and converted at the rim for two to make it 69-65, and the Panthers got an important stop but Herry was the first to the floor to pounce on the loose ball for the offensive rebound (Taunton’s 18th offensive rebound) and got a timeout to keep possession with 29.2 seconds to go. Santos hit two from the line to ice the win.
“[Tristan] is the energizer bunny for us, he really is,” Dacey said of Herry, who not only grabbed the key offensive rebound but also shined defensively and stepped in to take charges. “And the other kids feed off of it too, and they feed off of Danny [MacDougall] too. We have some guys that are laid back, and that was one issue today where we had too many guys too laid back simultaneously. So getting the energy from those two guys really helped.”
While MacDougall didn’t factor into the fourth quarter scoring, he played a huge role through the first three quarters for the hosts. He came off the bench and hit two shots in the first quarter and grabbed two boards, helping the Tigers to a 22-19 lead after eight minutes.
He added two more field goals in the second quarter with nice takes to the rim and dished out three assists, while Isiah Seldon also came off the bench for a pair of field goals in the second as Taunton staked a 41-35 halftime lead.
Franklin made it a two-point game early in the third before Santos pushed it back to five with a three. Then MacDougall came up with a steal and found Lopes streaking up the court. Lopes’ feet were accidentally tripped up by a defender and he tossed the ball up as he was falling out of bounds, and MacDougall alertly sprinted the floor and grabbed possession, and laid it in for two and a 51-44 lead. MacDougall finished with a career-high 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“Danny’s unbelievable…he did a good job today,” Dacey said. “We felt like we weren’t losing anything, there wasn’t a drop off when we put Danny in today. He really helped out.”
While Herry and MacDougall provided a big energy boost for the home team, Harvey did the same for the visitors. The senior guard was a menace on both ends of the court, locking up one of the Tigers’ top guards while running the offense.
On top of his career-high 12 points (on 6-of-8 shooting), he dished out a career-high nine assists with only two turnovers, grabbing three steals on defense. His ability to penetrate the defense led to easy layups and open looks from three-point range for the likes of Walmsley, Alex Newman, and freshman Henry Digiorgio (13 points, 3-of-8 three point).
“Zach’s a captain for us for those types of reasons,” Neely said. “He doesn’t do many of the fanfare things that everyone sees, but it’s nice to see he get some assist numbers. But his contributions go far beyond the stat book. He was spraying it around and getting guys good looks, he takes on tough defensive matchups. He had Lopes today and held him scoreless until the fourth. I’m really happy for him because he had a great game, I just wish it could have been a ‘W.’”
Taunton (2-0) returns to action next week on Tuesday when it travels to take on Kelley-Rex newcomer Milford. Franklin (4-2) will try to snap its current two-game skid when it makes the trip to take on rival Mansfield on the same day.
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