Not only was it Franklin College’s last regular-season home game against Defiance College, the two teams were battling for the right to play host to a first-round game at the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.
The visiting Yellow Jackets overcame a four-point deficit in the final five minutes of play to defeat the Grizzlies, 72-63, on Saturday.
By locking down the No. 4 tournament seed, Defiance will be at home to take on Franklin for the third time this season on Tuesday.
The Yellow Jackets won the first go-round, 64-60, again having to rally past the Grizzlies, who had led by as many as 14 points in the first half Dec. 15.
Defiance senior guard Logan Wolfrum, scored 18 of his game-high 27 points in the final seven minutes of play to seal the victory. Wolfrum hit 11 free throws without a miss.
Defiance got to the free throw line 35 times, making 28 compared to Franklin’s 17 for 23 in one of the most physical games of the season.
The Grizzlies kept things close and trailed by only four points at the half, 32-26.
Using a mid-court zone-trap defense, Franklin College forced Defiance into five turnovers to tie the score at 41-41 on a turning, twisting layup by sophomore guard Patrick Ellis.
Freshman center Dion Smith gave the Grizzlies a 51-48 advantage after cashing in on a 3-point play while being fouled in the act of shooting.
But it was Wolfrum, who almost single-handedly took over the game when the Yellow Jackets needed him most.
Also scoring in double-figures for Defiance were Ryan Hicks and Mason Roth with 17 and 13 points respectively.
For Franklin College, junior guard Bailey Howard finished with 23 points. Junior Terry Sargent added 14 and senior Gunner Erwin tossed in 13.
Defiance improved its league record to 11-7 and 15-10 overall while Franklin closed the regular season with a 9-9 record in the HCAC and 14-11 overall.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will advance to the semifinals to take on the host and No. 1 seed Rose-Hulman on Friday.
The Engineers clinched an outright conference championship, beating Hanover College, 59-57, on Saturday.
Hanover, the No. 3 seed will play the winner of a quarterfinals game between Mount St. Joseph and Transylvania in the second semifinals contest Friday.