Ask any coach, no matter what the sport, and the answer is always the same: It’s a challenge to beat the same opponent three times in one season.
On the road against Defiance College, the Franklin College men’s basketball team battled until the final buzzer, but the Yellow Jackets had enough to get by the Grizzlies, 85-66, in the first round of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday night.
The Grizzlies got off to a roaring start and took a double-digit lead at 20-10 on some heady inside play by senior Gunner Erwin and the outside shooting of Bailey Howard and Terry Sargent.
But what enabled Defiance to get back quickly were Franklin personal fouls. The Yellow Jackets got into the 1-and-1 at the 10:36 mark.
Little by little, the Grizzlies’ lead had shrunk to 3-points.
A 3-pointer by senior Logan Wolfrum and another trey at the buzzer by Ryan Hicks gave Defiance a 37-34 halftime advantage.
The Grizzlies kept things close for the opening minutes of the second half and enjoyed two ties at 46 and 48 apiece before Hicks caught fire.
His fast-break layup brought the crowd to its feet.
Sophomore guard Mason Roth knocked down a 3-pointer, and Hicks got in on the act with another hoop to give the Yellow Jackets a 61-53 lead.
From there, the Grizzlies’ offensive game went away and never really returned. As Defiance went up by 12 with a little more than nine minutes left, the Grizzlies had no answer.
Defiance put five players in double-figures and hit 26 of 29 free throws. Hicks topped the Yellow Jackets with 27 points, while Wolfrum added 16 and Roth tossed in 15.
For Franklin, Howard had a team-best 18 points Erwin added 17. Franklin hit 20 of 47 from the field for 42.6 percent and 20 of 26 free throws.
There were a combined 47 personal fouls call in the game.
With the win, Defiance (16-10) advances to the tournament semifinals on Friday at top-seed Rose-Hulman.
Franklin closed the season with a 14-12 mark.