STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY
Despite owning a District 11-AAA best 14-2 regular season record, Franklin had never quite figured out how to create breathing room in its meetings with the Summit Spartans.
As much held true through more than two quarters into their semifinals matchup, until the Rebels figured out how to play like a dominant first place team.
A key seven-point 3rd quarter run ending with a buzzer-beating floater by senior Reese Glover paved the way for a 72-59 Franklin win over a young but fiery Summit squad Saturday evening at Dickson County High School.
Glover scored a game-high 30 points on the night, including 19 in a second half that slowly saw the Rebels pull away after trailing by as many as seven early in the 3rd quarter.
“We scored seven in a row. The man to man defense was good, that really helped us out,” Franklin head coach Darrin Joines admitted afterward in surviving yet another scare from the Spartans.
The game began with the threat of a completely different look in their rivalry. Glover freed himself from double coverage, dribbling around his back and finding a spot from way downtown to give Franklin an early 3-0 lead.
As has been the case in their previous two meetings, Summit immediately responded. Tristan Conger (8 points) nailed a triple, as did freshman Keaten Wade (team-high 20 points) following a Glover layup to give the Spartans its first lead of the night. It would only continue to grow, or at least as much as the offensive flow would allow.
Summit led 11-10 after one and grew the lead to six before Franklin turned to its season-long one-two punch. Senior post Ahsharri Haynesworth proved a dominant force in the middle, struggling on defense to slow down Keaten Wade but at the very least responding as often as he could. The son of former NFL defensive star Albert Haynesworth scored 12 in the first half, combining with Glover for all but three of Franklin’s 26 points.
A 26-26 halftime time quickly transitioned to a seven-point lead for the Spartans, who made some key defensive adjustments in efforts to momentarily stall Glover and Haynesworth.
That’s when Franklin returned to an old sharpshooter in senior Jordan Bruce.
“I’ve been telling you all season, Jordan was due to bust out for a 6-or-7 three-pointers performance,” Joines reminded Home Page. “He’s the type of shooter, say we think he’ll hit 30 of 50 and then goes 20 of 40, we’re confident in the percentages playing out for him to hit those final 10. The way he can shoot, we’ll always give him that chance.
“Summit made a decision to take weapons away from our offense, and we took what they gave us. Jordan stepped up big time for us especially in those moments.”
Bruce came up big in a pivotal 3rd quarter, scoring 9 of his 18 points in the session. It complemented that of fellow senior and Missouri Western commit Glover, who dropped 11 in the quarter including a pull-up jumper just at the buzzer to put Franklin ahead 48-46. The run offset a 14-point 3rd quarter by Wade, who would add three more to his team-high 20 before fouling out in late in the 4th quarter.
His twin brother Destin stepped up late, scoring on a layup and then forcing a turnover out of a timeout to keep Summit within six heading into the final 2:00 after having struggling to keep pace for most of the final quarter.
“We played well in spurts. There was a segment in that third and 4th quarter where we gave them too many opportunities to get their shots,” noted Summit head coach Josh Goodwin. “It’s a tough spot to be in.
“When you allow shooters to get their shots, when you allow Reese to control the ball as long as he did… those things happen five possessions in a row, and their shooters can easily turn that into 15 points. That can snowball in the wrong direction for you.”
It ultimately felt like an avalanche, as Summit couldn’t close the gap any closer. Franklin made clutch free throws down the stretch in providing a 13-point margin of victory in a game that was far more competitive than the final score suggested.
“It got a little nuts in the end, but that goes with tournament time,” admitted Joines. “It’s a different time of the year, how people compete. It’s what makes you want to play and coach. They led nearly the entire 1st half, scored six straight points and then we got hot.”
Franklin stayed hot enough to advance to the District 11-AAA Finals. Awaiting the Rebels will be the Brentwood Bruins, who cruised to a 51-37 semifinals win over crosstown rival Ravenwood in the third Battle of the ‘Woods this season.
Ravenwood will face Summit in the 3rd place game on Tuesday, with both teams advancing to road games in Region 6-AAA play next week.
Ben Mills and Harry Lackey proved far too imposing a presence in the middle, scoring 16 and 14 points respectively in a game that blew wide open in the final 16 minutes after a low-scoring first half. Strong defense has long been Brentwood’s calling card, but their offense didn’t really kick into gear until Mills and Lackey got hot in the 3rd quarter.
The slow-pace style of Bruins basketball proved detrimental to Ravenwood’s attack, getting balanced scoring but without a single Raptor reaching double figures.
As should be the case with a second-place team in the district, Brentwood has proven to be a tough out for the top-seeded Rebels. Their rematch in January came down to the wire, with Franklin prevailing in a 53-51 win that gave them breathing room atop the district standings despite the game only starting the second half of the district schedule.
It set the tone for the Rebels to go onto clinch the regular season title five games later, to where even a late season loss to Dickson County didn’t impact their standing. Brentwood’s 0-2 record versus the number-one team proved tough to conquer, with their second-place fate sealed following a February 8th 61-38 road loss to Centennial.
The Bruins have only allowed a combined 99 points in three games since then. Their stingy defense will once again be called upon to slow down Franklin, who is the only team this season to crack 70 points versus Brentwood, coming in the district season opener.