STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY
Despite his season-leading scorer Reese Glover being held to just six points and his team trailing up until the final 2:00 of the game, Franklin head coach Darrin Joines remained confident that the Rebels would find a way to outlast a young-but-determined Summit Spartans squad.
Strangely, the only time he feared for the worst was with a two-point lead and just 0:02 left on the clock.
“I tell you, when that #12 (Konata Werts) managed to get that shot off before the buzzer, I just knew that was game,” confessed Joines.
The coach and his Rebels squad were able to breath a collective sigh of relief in the end. An attempted buzzer beater by Werts fell short, sealing a 61-59 win for Franklin over the Spartans in Friday’s District 11-AAA matchup at Franklin High School.
On a night when Glover—who normally scores at around 28 ppg.—was constantly facing double-teams, it was the inside of presence of Ahsharri Haynesworth and Matt Thurman leading the way for the Rebels.
“Getting a district win is always great. We didn’t play great, but we got the win,” stated Glover, who will head to Missouri Western in the fall. “It was honestly one of the best defensive plans a team has had against me and we struggled with it for most of the game. But we pulled it out in the end. It’s nice when we’re able to get the big guys to score.”
Haynesworth led all scorers with 24 points, along with drawing a key offensive charge late in the 4th quarter after Franklin claimed the lead for the first time on the night. Thurman added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“It’s easy for us to score when they’re double-teaming Reese,” Thurman said in exploiting Summit’s defensive scheme. “When they double-team Reese, it becomes 5-on-4. We had easy 3-on-1, 3-on-2 possessions which made it easy to score.”
Freshman Destin Wade led the way for the visiting Spartans with 17 points but fouled out with less than 90 seconds to go.
Werts added 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and two steals. The sophomore point guard was instrumental throughout the game, draining a pair of threes in a pivotal 2nd quarter that forced Franklin to rethink its own strategy.
“We pulled out all the stops tonight,” Joines admitted. “We tried a lot of different things we don’t normally do. We were picking them up full-court, playing man-to-man. It was a struggle most of the night, and I got to give them credit.”
Collapsing on Glover meant having to sacrifice an inside presence, which ultimately kept Franklin hanging around for as long as the did. Haynesworth went off for 17 points in the first half, but was only good enough to keep the deficit to four at the break.
Thurman’s breakout 3rd quarter brought the Rebels within one, but the trick was figuring out a way to slow down Summit’s hot shooters.
An 8-2 run to start the 4th quarter—capped by a Werts putback on an offensive rebound from a missed three by freshman Triston Conger—put the Spartans up 55-48 with just 5:30 to go.
The next four minutes saw Franklin get timely contributions from everyone who stepped on the court. A three-point play by Glover—who hadn’t scored since a deep three late in the 2nd quarter—off of a steal by Reed Kemp (7 points) ignited a 10-2 rally to put the Rebels up 58-57, their first lead of the night with just over 2:00 to go.
For the first time in the game, Franklin felt like it had survived the storm.
“We were scoring, but we couldn’t stop them,” Joines noted. “Before you know it, you’re down seven and then you have to score every time. If we didn’t get even one of those stops down the stretch, that’s the game.”
Even with several big defensive plays in the final quarter, Franklin still managed to keep the door cracked open for Summit to steal a win.
Haynesworth sank two free throws to give the Rebels a seemingly secure 4-point lead with 0:07.4 left.
“We had to step up,” said Haynesworth. “We knew they’d double team Reese so we had to get open. When we saw at half court they double teamed Reese, Matt would go high post and (Reese) would just get the ball to me or to Matt down low. We started slow and not playing our game. Towards the end we got into our groove and found a way to win.”
Wertz nearly found a way to pull it out for the visitors. The sophomore raced down the court to hit a 15-foot jumper to cut the lead to two before immediately fouling Kemp, who missed both free throws. A rebound by Matt Montana off of the second miss gave the Spartans back the ball with 0:02 and with a chance to win.
Chaos quickly ensued, as time somehow expired despite a timeout by Summit head coach Josh Goodwin being acknowledged by the referees. Strangely they wound up with 0:00.3 more time on the clock out of it, but the trade-off came in having to revise after the inbound possession was wrongly moved from the sideline to the baseline.
They still wound up with their best chance of winning, but Werts just couldn’t get an attempted buzzer-beater to fall.
“We made a few little mistakes and didn’t properly execute the last play,” noted Werts. “We had too many offensive charges, we were jump-stopping in the first half but got away from that in the second half.”
The heartbreaking loss sends Summit to 4-8 on the season and 2-4 in district play—but no less confidence of making some noise in mid-February.
“Even with the loss, we still leave here with a lot more confidence,” Werts believes. “This is one of the best teams in our district. We expect to beat them next time we play them, and I believe this team can do really well in the district (tournament, region and maybe even go on to state.”
As for Franklin, the late surge not only gave them the win but also a share of 1st place in the district. They advance to 11-5 overall, but more importantly 5-1 in District 11-AAA play along with Dickson County, whom they host in a pivotal game on Tuesday.
The Rebels know they’ll have to put together a far more complete effort than was the case on Friday.
“Honestly, I don’t feel bad about winning but I do feel bad for those Summit kids,” Joines admitted. “They did everything they need to do to win. They led for 30 minutes. But I’ll tell you what, I’m glad I feel bad. One thing I learned…never apologize for a win.”