STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTO BY DEB SCALLY
The Franklin Lady Rebels saw the return of their King to the court, but ultimately came up just short in the presence of royalty.
Dickson County ran off 15 straight points in the 3rd quarter and fended off a late surge by hosting Franklin to claim a 60-54 win Tuesday evening at Franklin High School, spoiling the return of Lady Rebels senior playmaker Jillian King.
Senior shooting guard Ryann Roberts and junior post Olivia Rinehart scored 18 points each for the Lady Cougars, who remain tied with the Page Lady Patriots atop the district.
The matchup was the first between the two since last season’s District 11-AAA championship, won by a Franklin squad that graduated most of its key players, while all but one of Dickson County’s starters from last season’s team has returned.
“It was good to fight in a game like this against Franklin tonight,” Dickson County head coach Erin Webb told Home Page. “They are such a well-coached team, they have great shooters, some real scrappy players, a great ball handler and a great girl down low. We had to correct a lot of first half mistakes, which we made a point of doing in getting this win.”
The Lady Rebels led for most of the first half, on the strength of a balanced scoring attack and fluid ball movement. A large part of that was the floor presence of King, who returned to the court after being forced to sit out while healing from injuries sustained in a December 21st road win over Independence.
With the senior guard back at the helm, it meant the likes of senior post Darcy Doran (6 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) and freshmen sharpshooters Bergen Allee (15 points, 5 rebounds) and Sydney Ryan (20 points) returning to their normal positions.
“It’s such a relief having Jillian back. Everyone is back to their normal positions,” admitted Allee, who has scored in double digits in each of her past three games. “I was shooting better tonight, I was rebounding. It was such a good feeling.”
Nobody on the Lady Rebels felt better than the floor leader herself. King immediately established her presence, dishing 5 of her game high 6 assists in the first half and defensively disrupting the rhythm of Dickson County’s potent offense. Her ability to spread out the floor allowed the Lady Rebels to carry a 25-22 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“It felt really good to be back,” said King, who will head to Valdosta State in the fall. “This game for me was all about getting back in my rhythm. I never felt like my shot was back. As far as distributing and handling the ball, everything felt good at the start of the game and by halftime I felt like I was all the way back.”
By that point, the Lady Cougars remembered their season-long mission.
“There’s a second-place plaque in my office, that we keep for the players to see,” admits Webb, noting the harsh reminder of Dickson County losing the 2017-18 District 11-AAA championship to Franklin and also settling for regional semifinalist. “The girls don’t like it, so that’s their motivation to win this season.”
The visiting Lady Cougars came out swinging in the third quarter, but not before a quick basket by Ryan gave Franklin a 27-22 lead. It was the last points scored by the Lady Rebels, who committed turnovers on four straight possessions following a three-pointer by Rinehart, which ignited a 15-0 rally that extended nearly six minutes.
Most of the points came as the result of turnovers, with Roberts and junior Caty Roberts combining for five steals in a 20-point 3rd quarter which ended with senior forward and Freed-Hardemen University commit Reagan Purvine draining a three.
“We knew we were getting out rebounded. A big emphasis was taking better care of the ball in the second half,” noted Roberts, the Bethel U. commit and Lady Cougars leading scorer.
By the start of the 4th quarter, the Lady Rebels were suddenly trailing by 13—but in no way, shape or form were done fighting. Ryan opened the quarter with a three from the top of the key, only for Ryann and Caty Roberts to score back-to-back baskets to extend Dickson County’s lead to 14.
Then it was time for Franklin to rally.
“I was proud of our resilience,” Franklin head coach John Wild said of his team’s fighting spirit throughout the night. “We never buried our head, we kept fighting all night. We have to protect the basketball better, that’s really what hurt us the most tonight. You can’t turn the ball over 16 times and expect to win basketball games.”
Still, the Lady Rebels fully planned to find a way to prevail.
“Sydney and I just looked at each other and knew that it was time to take over the game,” said Allee, who drained consecutive three-pointers in igniting an 11-0 rally.
A steal by King sparked a fast break that led to the senior finding Kate O’Neil (8 points) down low. A three by Ryan had the Lady Rebels within three and perhaps even closer after Allee snatched a rebound following a missed free throw.
The Lady Cougars managed to kill the rally, however, as a Rinehart steal started a fast break ending with Purvine driving to the basket in sparking an 8-1 run. Ryan and Allee combined for the Lady Rebels final seven points, but Dickson County went a perfect 6/6 in three straight trips to the line in that stretch to preserve the win.
“We had too many turnovers and judgment lapses,” admits Ryan. “I had several myself. But there was nothing about this game that made us hang our heads. We played great but it was just that one run we couldn’t overcome. But it’s progress as we continue to build towards February and tournament season.”
Next up for the Lady Cougars (13-3/6-1) is a pivotal home game versus the Summit Lady Spartans in Division 11-AAA play. The Spartans lost to the Page Patriots on Tuesday, leaving Dickson County tied at the top where they plan to remain for the rest of the season.
“That plaque in coach’s office is really motivating,” reveals Roberts. “We hate looking at it. We love winning. Just having that plaque in our face, we just want it to go away and the only way to do that is replace it with a 1st place trophy.
Franklin (8-9/3-4 in district play) returns Thursday for the last of a three-game homestand, as they face Cane Ridge in a non-conference game. The Lady Rebels will then hit the road for a District 11-AAA matchup versus hosting Spring Hill, their fourth game in eight nights.