STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTOS BY WHITNEY JARRELD
More so than getting a big road win, the biggest takeaway from Franklin’s latest victory was their finding other ways to score on a night when it wasn’t happening for their leading scorer.
A dominant inside game for the Rebels led to a 69-48 road win over the Independence Eagles in District 11-AAA play Friday evening at Independence High School in Thompson’s Station.
Reese Glover was held to 14 points—roughly half of his season scoring average—by a stingy Eagles defense, but managed six assists and five steals while constantly getting the ball to the Rebels’ big men. Senior center Ahsharri Haynesworth took over in the second half en route to a game-high 20 points, while Matt Thurman added 16 points and eight rebounds.
While Franklin’s big three led the way statistically, it was the role players who set the tempo.
“I thought it started with Connor Beavon,” Franklin head coach Darrin Joines pointed out to Home Page. “He got on the boards early and the other boys took the lead from there.”
Beavon contributed with six rebounds and three assists, providing an early spark on a night when the Eagles made a point to contain Glover. Independence’s pre-game scouting report proved strong for about a quarter, trailing by just three points after the first eight minutes before the Rebels’s offense found a way to drive to the basket.
“It’s great when our bigs can get going,” noted Glover, a Missouri Western commit. “We have two big presences down low in Ahsharri and Matt, probably the two best in the district. Once they get going, it really takes the pressure off me.
“I don’t need to score 30 every time, I can just get them the ball. Everyone did their job really well tonight.”
Haynesworth stepped it up after a relatively quiet first quarter. The early-season transfer from Centennial carved out his presence on the court, scoring 17 of his game-high 20 in the second and third quarters while proving an imposing presence on the Eagles’ post players.
“Our game plan always begins with trying to get Reese the ball. When they collapse on him, it opens up the post,” noted Haynesworth. “They changed up their defensive strategy on me, playing one in front of me and one behind me. My teammates were able to get me the ball and I was able to drive to the basket.
“It was key, we knew we had a mismatch down low so we needed to find a way to make it work.”
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Haynesworth’s physical play was knowing where to channel his aggression. He managed to get Matt St. Charles (14 points, 6 rebounds) to foul out, while only committing two fouls himself.
“It just comes from being disciplined, on and off the court,” stated Haynesworth, within earshot of his famous father, former All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth who is a fixture at all of his son’s football and basketball games.
“His real key is that he has the best dad in the world,” quipped the elder Haynesworth, beaming with his son’s—and the entire Rebels team’s—play on Friday.
Equally impressed was their hosting opponent.
“Defensively we wanted to pressure them, keep them in front of us and make them work hard to get the ball inside,” explained Eagles head coach Doug Keil. “That’s what our scouting report told us, and I thought (senior point guard) Preston Garner did a really good job on Reese Glover, but tonight Reese didn’t have to put on a show.
“They were able to get the ball inside, and that’s an area where we really struggled tonight.”
In addition to the 44 combined points from their forwards and guards, Franklin also enjoyed a 32-20 advantage on the boards.
“I’ve always said, when we can go to the glass we can beat anyone,” Joines insists. “The thing is, it doesn’t always happen that way for us. We got outrebounded last week (versus Centennial) and we lost the game as a result. When we can rebound like we did tonight and can force teams to feel like they have to score on one shot, that’s frustrating for them. That was a big key.”
With the win, Franklin (8-4/3-2 in District 11-AAA) has now claimed three straight over Independence. Their last loss in this series came when the Eagles knocked the Rebels out of the 2017 District playoffs amidst their own run to the state tournament.
It’s a far different Eagles team these days, falling to to 2-8 on the season, including 1-3 in district play—their lone local win coming in an overtime victory over Centennial earlier in the month.
“it’s been a rough year but we’re getting better each game,” said Keil, whose Eagles squad heads to Hickman County over the break for the Above The Rim tournament. “We are in close games with a lot of good teams; this was really only our second lopsided loss of the season. We have the desire and the confidence; it just comes down to we have to get better overall as a team. It’s that simple.”
As for Franklin, the simplest way to improve on their strong start is to find the toughest competition available. That will be what awaits the Rebels during the holiday break, as they host the Middle Tennessee Invitational Tournament from Dec. 27-29 at Franklin High School.
“Eight teams in this tournament, and seven of them went to sub-state last year,” Joines notes of the upcoming session. “Look, we can go 0-3 next week, and still come out the better team for the experience—not that it’s our goal, mind you. We learn nothing by scheduling pickup games against teams we can beat by 30.
“Tonight, Independence forced us to play their style of basketball and we had to make the adjustments. Next week, we’re going in against some stiff competition and will learn to adjust there, which will only make us stronger later in the season.”