Having lost three of their last four conference games, Franklin College’s men’s basketball team needed a signature victory at home Wednesday night and they got it.
Fighting back from a 38-35 halftime deficit to Heartland College Athletic Conference rival Hanover, the Grizzlies used smart defense backed up by their guard-speed to accelerate past the Panthers, 78-76.
Hanover got the best of the Grizzlies from the opening tip, scoring four straight layups. But with a few defensive adjustments, Hanover’s inside game went away.
On the other side, Franklin College junior Terry Sargent jettisoned his way to six fast-break layups.
The game was tied five times in the first half and Franklin got its first lead at 11-10 thanks to a pair of free throws by senior forward Gunner Erwin with 13:45 left.
Erwin went to work at the start of the second half by scoring Franklin’s first eight points.
With the Grizzlies transition game working effectively, junior guard Bailey Howard knocked down two 3-pointers and freshman forward Dion Smith had a put-back layup on an offensive rebound to put Franklin up, 50-46.
Erwin got free on a steal and raced to the other end of the floor with no defender in front him and threw down a thunderous dunk to give the Grizzlies a 56-49 advantage.
Junior J.T. Barton added a jump shot at the top of the key to finish an 11-3 run, forcing Hanover to call timeout with 10:43 remaining.
Sargent led the break for two more layups to give Franklin its biggest edge at 73-57.
With a little over four minutes left, Hanover made a valiant comeback and sliced the lead to three points at 74-71 on a 3-pointer by Kyle James.
However, with nine seconds on the clock, Smith converted two free throws and freshman guard Trae Washington hit one of two free throws to preserve the Franklin win.
Erwin topped the Grizzlies with a game-high 25 points to go with five rebounds. Sargent and Bailey also were in double figures with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
James topped the Panthers scoring with 19 points, including four 3-pointers and Brian Gunter added 16.
With the win, Franklin improved its conference record to 7-6 and 12-8 overall, good for fifth place in the conference.
Hanover, which was tied with Transylvania for second place, had its eight-game win streak snapped. The Panthers have a 10-3 league record and 13-7 overall.
The Grizzlies host Manchester at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Due to technical difficulties, details of Franklin College’s women’s basketball game at Hanover played Wednesday night were not made available. Look for a story and game summary in Friday’s newspaper.