BY JAKE DONOVAN
At this very point one year ago, the Franklin Rebels watched a sizable lead slip away in dropping their season opener in an overtime thriller versus East Nashville High School.
It was a reversal of fortunes in their rematch on Tuesday, as a clutch three-pointer by senior Reese Glover with 0:03.8 to go in the game gave the Rebels a 71-68 win over the visiting Eagles in their home opener.
“This is how you want to start a season,” Franklin head coach Darrin Joines exclaimed after the game. “We knew what we were getting with this Eagles team, and it was just like when we played in their house last year. There were a lot of fluctuations. We go up, they go up, back and forth. But we pulled this one out.
“It was a fun game and you want tough games like this, it only makes you better as the season goes along.”
Glover led the Rebels with 24 points—including six three pointers—six assists and three steals in playing all 32 minutes. Jordan Bruce contributed 21 points—all from three point range—and three assists.
The Rebels’ signature run-and-gun offense was on full display from the opening tip. So, too, was the Eagles high-flying offense, led by senior point guard Taras Carter, who seemed to have a response every time the Rebels scored.
Bruce and Carter (18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) both came flying out the gate, hitting threes on their teams’ first possessions. It set the tone for a night loaded with momentum shifts and 10 lead changes.
The Rebels fells behind 16-7 after one but shot themselves right back into the game with a 22-point second quarter. The blitz included five three-pointers, three coming from the finger tips of Bruce who inexplicably disappeared from Franklin’s offense in the second half.
“That’s the thing about us; we live and die by the three, but that style is going to lead to some mistakes,” admits Joines, though without a hint of an apologetic tone. “I give East Nashville and coach Jim Fey credit, they made the right adjustments. They went to that box defense and we just couldn’t get to the ball to Jordan in the third quarter.”
The strategy proved sound. With the game tied at 44, the Eagles soared following a timeout midway through the 3rd quarter, going on a 9-0 run before Glover hit a deep two pointer to stop the bleeding heading into the final eight minutes.
Then came the comeback.
“Down seven going into the last quarter, we knew the game wasn’t out of reach but we had to correct some key mistakes,” noted Glover. “We started applying pressure better in the 4th, got key rebounds and just kept battling.”
They also kept hitting threes—six of them in the final quarter.
Bruce and sophomore Connor Beavon (4 points, 7 rebounds) combined for eight points to rally the Rebels from seven down to a 54-53 lead with six minutes to go. The deep Eagles roster provided plenty of changes in tide, with Carter and Isaiah Jones (19 points, 9 rebounds) scoring back-to-back baskets to regain the lead.
The Rebels weren’t done battling, as Bruce and Glover drained consecutive threes to send the boisterous home crowd into a frenzy.
No lead was secure at any point in the game, a reminder drilled home by Eagles senior Caleb Grimes, who nailed a 22-foot shot from the right corner to make the game a 68-68 tie with less than one minute to go.
From there, it was Reese Glover time.
“I knew I was going to take the [final] shot, it’s just my role on the team,” Glover noted.
It would come 48 seconds into the Rebels’ final possession, with Glover nailing the eventual game-winning three. A well-executed final play by the Eagles saw the ball land in the capable hands of freshman Willie Wilson (12 points on 4 3-pointers), but his shot was deflected by Beavon in the closing seconds to preserve the win.
“Our guys just kept battling,” noted a prideful Glover. “Jordan stepped up big with (21) points. Connor Beavon had the big play in the end. I’m just happy for our team and our effort. [This win] is huge for our season, we just have to carry on that momentum.”
Franklin (1-0) next travels to Metro Nashville for a road game versus Stratford High School on Thursday before returning home on November 19 versus Pearl-Cohn.
Photo from previous game by Steve Wheeler