How did they do it? Even the coach wasn’t quite sure. But, when it came to crunch time, a light bulb finally came on.
The Franklin College women’s basketball team, playing at home on an emotional senior day, came storming back from a 15-point deficit to defeat Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Anderson 57-55 on Saturday.
After going through a 20-minute pregame ceremony to honor seven outgoing seniors, the Grizzlies struggled to find the basket the entire first half. Anderson took advantage, darting to a 16-5 lead by the end of the first quarter. At halftime, the Ravens had upped their margin to 30-17.
Franklin shot only 23.3 percent in the opening half, hitting 7 of 30 overall and missing all eight 3-point tries.
Anderson, which came in having won only two conference games, stretched their lead to 46-31 with 8:14 left in the final period before the Grizzlies finally got the spark they needed. A run keyed by 3-pointers by sophomore guard Riley Achenbach and senior Kelsey Smith narrowed the Anderson lead to 50-45.
Critical turnovers by the Ravens allowed Franklin to tie the game at 55-55 behind two layups by senior center Amber May.
“To be honest, I didn’t know we were down that far,” May said. “We sometimes struggle in the first quarter, but we are definitely a fourth-quarter team.”
With only nine ticks left on the clock, senior guard Mandy Fisher calmly converted two free throws to seal the victory.
Smith had a game-high 14 points and May added nine for the winners. Leading the way for Anderson with a game-high 18 points was freshman center Olivia Love.
After the game, Franklin coach Dana Haggenjos tried to explain what happened.
“I don’t know if it was the emotions of playing at home the last time. We came out flat and played flat for three and half quarters, but we were able to find some toughness down the stretch and find a way to win,” she said.
With the win, Franklin (13-11) finished in a tie with Hanover for fourth place in the conference. Those two teams will now meet in the first round of the HCAC tournament on Tuesday.
The Franklin men ended their season Saturday, falling to Anderson 104-66.
Anderson used a blistering fast-paced attack that had the Grizzlies on their heels for most of the first half.
With 24 first-half points, Trevor Lucas gave the Ravens a comfortable 49-29 lead at the break. Anderson didn’t slow down in the opening four minutes of the second half, stretching its lead to 61-36 and forcing another Grizzlies timeout.
Franklin got no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
By game’s end, Lucas had a game-high 33 points. For Franklin (6-19), freshman guard Braxton Day had a team-high 22 points while senior Aaron Mann added 17.
Robbie Prather, a four-year starter for his coach and father Kerry Prather, said he will never be able to thank his teammates and coaching staff enough for helping him fulfill a lifetime dream of playing college basketball.
“The camaraderie amongst us has never gone down or slipped,” the younger Prather said. “Obviously, I’m a little biased, but the coaching staff has done an amazing job.
“I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but the Prather passion for basketball is not going anywhere any time too soon.”