Franklin senior post player Tyler Thomas said coach Jerry Bomholt doesn’t let players leave practice until they’ve hit 80 percent of their free throws.
Friday at Mid-State Conference rival Decatur Central, the Grizzly Cubs couldn’t shake the host Hawks until they reached that mark, either.
Thomas hit a pair of clutch free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, then he and his teammates combined to hit all seven of their overtime attempts. They proved to be the difference in a 67-60 overtime victory.
“Last year we probably wouldn’t have won that game,” said Thomas, who led all scorers with 24 points and led Franklin (6-1) with eight rebounds. “We’ve come back from deficits all year long.
“We made a lot of turnovers that really killed us, and I missed multiple free throws, but we came back and did what we normally do.”
The Cubs hit exactly 80 percent for the game from the free-throw line (20 of 25), but Decatur Central (0-6) kept pace throughout the contest. Franklin built a 36-29 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Hawks scored the next nine points to take a 38-36 lead.
Franklin then scored eight straight to build a 44-38 edge and still led 48-42 with 3:50 remaining, but Decatur Central scored six straight to forge a 48-all tie with 1:35 left in regulation.
“We were not ready to play,” Bomholt said. “We could tell that during the warm-ups. We were going through the motions, and the next thing you know, you’re in the battle of your life.”
The Hawks led 54-52 with 14.3 seconds remaining after Antoine Divine hit one of two free throws, but Thomas was fouled inside with 6.5 seconds to go, setting up his game-tying free throws. Decatur Central’s C.B. Bennett put up a wild shot in traffic that missed, and the teams battled for the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
From there, Franklin took control.
Thomas scored on a driving layup 12 seconds into overtime, then Bryce Platfoot, who finished with 15 points and five rebounds, converted on a drive to the basket to give the Cubs a 58-54 lead with 3:22 left in overtime. The Hawks’ Lamont Hawthorne hit one of two free throws and Divine hit a 3-pointer to tie it 58-all, but Platfoot converted a 3-point play with 1:33 remaining to give Franklin the lead for good, 61-58.
T.J. Helm hit a layup for the Hawks to cut the Cubs’ lead to 61-60 with 1:17 remaining, but Decatur Central wouldn’t score again. Franklin hit all six of its free-throw attempts the rest of the way.
“Defensively, we finally got in a stance and decided we weren’t going to let the other guy score,” Bomholt said. “Last year, we shot 63 or 64 percent from the free-throw line, and I feel like we should shoot 75 or 80 percent. That has to be there the whole game.”
Nick King added 12 points for Franklin, while Christian Dickmann scored nine and Branden Hardesty added seven off the bench for the Cubs.
Divine led Decatur Central with 18 points, while Hawthorne added 17 points and eight rebounds. Helm scored 13 and Lukayus McNeil grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for the Hawks.
Franklin is off until Jan. 11 when it hosts Mid-State rival Mooresville.