One more possession is all Franklin College men’s basketball coach Kerry Prather wanted.
Instead, Defiance junior guard Mason Roth had the last say with a buzzer-beating 12-foot jump shot to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 54-52 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference victory at Franklin’s Spurlock Center on Saturday.
Despite the loss, Prather was encouraged by the Grizzlies’ effort.
“I’ve been so pleased with how these guys have rallied, pulled themselves together and came to compete,” Prather said. “We weren’t as efficient offensively as I would like, but (when) we got down, we defended well and we talked. We made progress.
“It’s hard to say when you’re trying to move up in the conference (standings) that a loss reflects progress, but it really does. We played well enough to win; we just needed another possession.”
Trailing 47-42 with eight minutes remaining, Roth spurred a Defiance comeback with a 3-point play, and moments later a 3-pointer by Travis Schomaeker put the Yellow Jackets on top, 50-47.
With 18.2 seconds remaining and the Grizzlies (6-9 overall, 3-5 HCAC) down by three, sophomore forward Dion Smith completed a three-point play with a layup and a free throw to forge a 52-52 tie.
But Roth answered with his buzz-beating shot, as Defiance improved to 11-4. The Yellow Jackets are in a three-way tie for second place in the conference with Mount St. Joseph and Hanover.
In three of its last four conference outings, Franklin has lost by a total of seven points to Manchester (2), Anderson (3) and now, Defiance (2).
The Grizzlies got off to a good start and led by as many as eight points in the early going. However, the Yellow Jackets regrouped and led 27-24 at halftime.
Franklin eventually retook the lead, 38-34, with 13 minutes remaining. Freshman guard Robbie Prather knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Grizzlies a 45-39 advantage with eight minutes left.
But Defiance went on a 10-2 run to regain the lead at 52-47, which eventually led to the last- second heroics by Roth, who finished with five points.
Defiance had three players in double figures. Bernard Edwards had 11 points, and Ryan Hicks and Schoemaker each added 10.
The Grizzlies, who hit 20 of 50 from the field for 40 percent, were led by senior Terry Sargent’s 14 points. Sophomore guard Trae Washington added 12, and Smith had 11 points and a team-leading seven rebounds.
Franklin senior guard Bailey Howard, who leads the conference in scoring with a 23.2 points-per-game average, was held to eight points, hitting only 3 of 14 from the field and 1 of 5 from outside the arc.
Defiance outrebounded the Grizzlies 38-28.
“We’re doing some of the right things,” Prather said. “We’re going to be OK. I’ve said over and over again, I love these guys. They’re a lot of fun to coach.
“It’s a good reminder to me that you want to be very careful about surrounding yourself with good kids who will respond to adversity in the right way.”
Franklin (6-8, 3-4) is scheduled to host conference rival Transylvania on Wednesday.