Special to the Daily Journal
Franklin College nearly took host Bluffton University into overtime, but fell short in a 72-69 Heartland Conference men’s basketball contest Saturday afternoon.
The host Beavers improved to 5-7 in the HCAC and 9-10 overall while the Grizzlies dropped to 6-6 in the league and 11-8 overall.
Following a closely contested opening half, Bluffton moved ahead by as many as 10 points on several occasions in the second period — in the last instance with 7:47 left — before Franklin rallied to make it interesting.
Trailing by five in the final minute, the Grizzlies cut the deficit to two points at 69-67 when senior forward Gunner Erwin hit a 3-point basket with 16 seconds left.
Beavers guard Tyler Neal hit one of two free throws a second later before Erwin answered, pulling Franklin to within one on a layup with four seconds to go.
Franklin had to foul and sent to the free-throw line sophomore guard Ryan Ebbeskotte, who hit both foul shots with four seconds remaining.
Then Erwin’s game-tying 3-point shot at the buzzer missed its mark and Bluffton survived.
Erwin finished with a game-best and career-high-tying 29 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. Junior guard Bailey Howard, who had an off day shooting the basketball, was the only other Grizzlies player in double figures with 12 points.
Bluffton’s balanced scoring effort was paced by junior center Will Pope, who tallied 15 points and had eight rebounds. Ebbeskotte tallied 13 points, and Josh Fisher and Billy Taflinger added 12 each.
The Beavers helped themselves greatly by hitting 23 of 30 free throws for 76.7 percent.