With a magnificent first half and an even more magnificent finish, the Franklin College men’s basketball team defeated visiting Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Manchester 74-60 on Wednesday night.
The Grizzlies (5-12, 2-8), who have struggled most of the season, came out hot and played solid team basketball from start to finish, winning comfortably despite a little scare in the second half.
Senior guard Aaron Mann connected on six of eight shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, to fuel the Grizzlies’ fast start.
Mann scored 12 of Franklin’s first 18 points to put the host team up by 11 at the 11-minute mark.
And were it not for nine first-half turnovers, the Grizzlies would have had an even bigger lead by halftime.
But the Spartans (6-12, 4-7) had a spirited turnaround when senior forward Tyler Alexander got into the paint and scored eight consecutive points to pull Manchester within one at 22-21.
However, once things got a little nerve-wracking, Mann hit a pair of free throws and freshman guard Braxton Day hit a deep 3-pointer from the right corner.
Mann and junior center John Beineke scored 28 of the Grizzlies’ 34 first-half points to help Franklin lead Manchester at the break 34-28.
The Spartans continued to go inside as the second half unfolded, which led to a 9-0 run and a 37-34 lead, their first of the game.
Over the next 12 minutes, the game was tied six times with five lead changes.
With Franklin down 51-50, senior guard Robbie Prather drained a pair of 3-pointers and Mann got to the free-throw line to convert on both tries to give the Grizzlies a 60-56 advantage with 4:54 left.
With time running down on the shot clock, Prather hit an 18-foot jumper. Mann then hit two more free throws and Beineke got perhaps the biggest basket of the game on an offensive putback to give the Grizzlies an eight-point advantage at 66-58.
Franklin locked in on defense and closed things out at the free-throw line, as Prather and Day each hit a pair to finish off the win.
The Grizzlies were 21 of 24 at the charity stripe (87.5 percent) and 46 percent from the field on 23-of-50 shooting.
Mann scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the first half. Prather finished with 18, Beineke 16 and Day 11.
Johnson topped the Spartans with 17 points.
Franklin travels to HCAC rival Earlham on Saturday.