DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
When Greenwood’s sophomore-laden boys basketball team bolted to a 23-10 first-quarter lead Friday night, Franklin’s veteran-dominated lineup didn’t panic.
Instead, the host Grizzly Cubs methodically climbed back into the game, then executed just well enough to take over down the stretch.
Greenwood shot over 50 percent from the floor, but Franklin countered with a 65 percent second-half shooting effort. The Cubs outscored the Woodmen 58-40 after that fast Greenwood start and eked out a 68-63 Mid-State Conference victory.
The win, Franklin’s seventh straight against the Woodmen, kept the Cubs perfect at 3-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play, while Greenwood fell to 1-3 and 0-2. But that record disparity wasn’t evident throughout most of Friday’s game.
“I thought we showed great toughness,” Franklin coach Brad Dickey said. “We made physical plays at the right times, and that’s a credit to the makeup of the kids.
The Cubs rallied to tie the game 51-all at the end of the third quarter, then built a 65-59 lead after a Cameron Smith free throw with 39.9 seconds remaining. Greenwood wasn’t done, however. The Woodmen cut the deficit to 66-63 after Braydon Kincaid’s free throw with 20.1 seconds left, then stole the inbound pass. Greenwood’s Jeffrey Reynolds, who scored 10 points and led everyone with 11 rebounds, missed a layup, Franklin’s Hunter Gross rebounded and hit one of two free throws to give Franklin a 67-63 edge with 13.8 seconds left. Greenwood didn’t score again.
“We hope when our sophomores get to be seniors, they’ll be a little tougher in those situations, but I don’t know how much longer we can use youth as an excuse,” Greenwood coach Bruce Hensley said of the Woodmen, who started four sophomores while Franklin started three seniors and two juniors. “We still don’t fully comprehend that the little things make a difference. Some of it is youth, but we’ve got to learn how to finish games.”
Greenwood’s lone senior starter, Justin Conley, led the Woodmen with 20 points, while Kincaid, a sophomore, added 17 points, including nine in the first quarter when Greenwood bolted to its big lead. The Woodmen hit 11 of 16 from the floor (68.8 percent) in the first quarter and still finished the game at 52.1 percent (25 of 48).
Jarrett Bertsch came off the bench for Franklin to lead all scorers with 22 points, including five 3-pointers. All of them came in the second and third quarters when the Cubs started their comeback.
“Coach drew it up in the huddle, and I looked for some screens and got some shots,” said Bertsch, who helped Franklin bust Greenwood’s 2-3 zone with his long-range shooting. “Our experience helped with leadership. We talked to each other out there about what we needed to do.”
Franklin labored through an 11-for-29 first-half shooting effort (37.9 percent) before heating up in the second half to finish 24 of 49 overall (49.0 percent). Andrew Hartkorn added 17 points for the Cubs, all in the paint or at the free-throw line, while shooting 6 of 8 from the floor. Cameron Smith finished with 15 points for Franklin, 10 of which came in the second half.
“We’re very confident in Jarrett; we got him in some good spots against their zone,” Dickey said. “Justin Beasley (four points off the bench) was awesome defensively, and Andrew and Cameron played well.”
Franklin plays tonight at Hauser. Greenwood hosts Herron tonight.