Having won eight out of its past nine games, the Franklin College women’s basketball team was sailing along in pursuit of the top spot in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings.
Then the Grizzlies ran into fifth-place Manchester College on Wednesday night at Franklin’s Spurlock Center.
With superior size and the quickness of their guards, the Spartans came away with a 56-43 upset victory, upping their record to 6-5 while Franklin dipped to 8-3 in the conference and 10-8 overall.
Neither team shot the basketball particularly well, especially in the first half.
The Spartans took a 15-7 lead with under eight minutes left in the half for their biggest lead. The Grizzlies finally got on track with a 3-pointer by freshman guard Lexi Ingram.
A layup by junior forward Lindsey Dall followed by a 15-foot jump shot by sophomore forward Kate Brewer, and a basket by freshman Hanna Ballard pulled Franklin within one point at 17-16.
Freshman guard Mandy Fisher knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Grizzlies a one-point advantage.
Manchester went to the break with a 21-18 advantage and added to the lead with eight straight points to start the second half.
With the help of forwards Abby Lang, Stephanie Barmes and Erynn Meikeljohn, the Spartans were very efficient inside the paint, breaking free for easy layups.
Manchester maintained a six- to eight-point advantage until the four-minute mark, when Franklin rallied.
A driving layup by Fisher, two free throws by Dall and a conventional 3-point play by junior forward Nichole Thompson cut the Manchester lead to only three points at 42-39.
With 7:08 remaining, the Spartans gathered themselves following a timeout and churned out an 8-0 run led by Lang, Alyssa Hammond and Justine Kruger.
The Grizzlies would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Franklin played without the services of freshman point guard Lauren DeSutter, who was out with a foot injury. Brewer left the game late in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.
Manchester finished with three players in double figures, led by Lang’s 13 points. Kruger added 12, Barmes 10 points and Jocelyn Hamilton nine.
For Franklin, Dall scored a team-high 12 points to go with six rebounds. Fisher added eight points and five assists.
Manchester won the battle of the boards, 37-34. Lang had seven caroms and Meikeljohn six.
The Spartans connected on 23 of 57 from the field for 40.4 percent, while Franklin hit 15 of 49 for 30.6 percent.
Franklin hosts Heartland Conference rival Anderson on Saturday.