DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
The Franklin boys’ basketball team isn’t settling for moral victories, and Friday was no exception.
Although the host Grizzly Cubs took some solace in staying within two points of Mid-State Conference-leading Martinsville until the final minute, they still lamented the shortcomings that resulted in a 64-56 loss to the Artesians.
“This is a positive experience, but we take some frustration away from this game, too,” Franklin coach Brad Dickey said. “(Martinsville) is a good team that we had a chance to beat.
“It’s a credit to our guys that they played well enough that free-throw shooting was a difference in the game.”
The Grizzly Cubs (6-10 overall, 2-3 Mid-State) hit just 11 of 20 free-throw attempts, including just 5 of 12 through the first three quarters. Martinsville (11-4 overall, 4-0 Mid-State), meanwhile, connected on 15 of its 19 tries from the stripe.
Martinsville appeared to seize control of the game when it took a 49-40 lead with 3:43 remaining, but Franklin whittled away at the deficit. The Cubs’ Nik Welch hit a pair of free throws with 2:32 left, then scored on a drive to the basket with 1:56 to go to cut the lead to 52-50.
Franklin, however, could never get the stop it needed to draw closer.
The Cubs still trailed 56-54 when Cameron Smith scored on a post-up bucket with 50 seconds left, but Martinsville’s Zach Anderson hit a baseline jumper 13 seconds later to make it a two-possession game. Franklin’s Cameron Rigley missed a 3-pointer, Martinsville’s Keegan Northern rebounded and the Cubs fouled Anderson with 27.4 seconds left.
Anderson missed both free throws, but the Artesians’ Logan Ratts grabbed the rebound off the second miss and laid it in to give Martinsville a 60-54 edge. Franklin never drew closer than four points after that.
“We attacked them (offensively), and when they tried to trap us a few times, we found the open guy,” said Martinsville coach Kip Staggs, who was Franklin’s athletics director before taking the Artesians job. “Our guys were unselfish and got the ball where it needed to be.”
Martinsville’s Gannon Myers led all scorers with 23 points, while Northern, a 6-foot-8 junior, added 17, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and a game-high eight rebounds.
Smith led Franklin with 17 points and seven rebounds, and scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter. Andrew Hartkorn added 14 points and five rebounds for the Cubs, while Rigley scored 10 off the bench and Welch chipped in with nine points.
Franklin never led in the second half, and only tied the score once (33-33 with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter) but never trailed by more than nine. The teams traded leads three times in the first half.
The Cubs’ last lead came with 1:46 remaining in the first half, a 20-19 edge. Martinsville led 24-22 at halftime.
Franklin got Martinsville in the bonus with 1:35 still to play in the first quarter, but their free-throw misses negated that edge. Two Martinsville players fouled out.
“(Martinsville) had a little more composure than we did, but our team chemistry is getting better,” Dickey said of the Cubs.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to play as fast and hard as we do and make free throws. We obviously wanted to make more of those.”
Franklin will return to action tonight with a game at Class 4A No. 5 Southport.