STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTO BY DEB SCALLY
If there’s anything the Franklin Lady Rebels have taken from their play over the past three weeks is that an “L” stands for a loss only if you can’t turn it into a learning lesson.
Everything they’ve learned over that stretch showed in a 51-39 victory over Cane Ridge in a non-conference game Thursday evening at Franklin High School.
Franklin had entered the night in search of their first win of the New Year, having dropped its past four starts. These included back-to-back narrow defeats to district rivals Summit and Dickson County. Not only did they emerge victorious on Thursday, but perhaps have turned a corner as a team.
“I thought it was a game where we went out of the league and had a chance to just be us,” Coach John Wild told Home Page. “It was a chance to get Jillian (King, senior point guard) some more floor time, let everyone just be themselves as we head into the second half of the district schedule.”
King enjoyed a much-welcomed return to the court on Tuesday, playing for the first time since the 3rd quarter of a December 21 road win over Independence. The Lady Rebels came up just short versus Dickson County, but continued to grow as a team.
By Thursday, the senior playmaker and her teammates all looked in sync. King put up 7 points, 6 rebounds and a game-high 7 assists—a number that even that low only because the Lady Rebels struggled from the floor, shooting 36% on the night.
Where they compensated was in ball control, with turnovers proving to be their season-long Achilles heel.
“We need to do a better job of holding each other accountable… we have to cut down on our turnovers,” Wild noted of his squad. “We’re averaging 14 turnovers a game. As you get deeper in the tournament, you want that number to be around 10.”
Officially, they only had 3 versus a Lady Ravens team that stayed in step with the hosts through three quarters before Franklin’s shooters got hot in the final eight minutes.
Superior ball control was evident in an opening quarter that saw all five Franklin starters score at least one basket. Their offense went ice cold after that, with freshman swing Sydney Ryan scoring all 10 points for the Lady Rebels in the second quarter.
The blue chipper led all scorers with 23 on the night, including six three-pointers.
“One thing that Coach Wild always tells us is that if we’re open, just shoot it,” Ryan said in finding her stroke early in the 2nd quarter. “I was able to get open more tonight, saw my shots and took them. If I’m not open, I find an open teammate.”
Ryan was the only Lady Rebel to reach double figures, but was part of a balanced offense that saw point production from six players. Freshman Bergen Allee added nine—all from behind the arc—along with five rebounds, while sophomore Kate O’Neil had 6 points, 6 rebounds and five steals.
“I’d say for the most part we’re in sync,” said senior post Darcy Doran (4 points, 4 steals, 1 block), a Christian Brothers U. commit. We did a much better job of protecting the ball. Now that Jillian is back, it’s really nice. We’re all back to our normal spots and back in a place where we can shine.”
Their brightest moments came late in the second half. A three by Ryan towards the end of the 3rd quarter not only stalled a Lady Ravens run but provided the starting point of a 14-0 stretch that broke the game wide open.
“Sydney is usually gonna get hers. After that, if you look at our stats, it’s fairly balanced (between the rest of the starters),” Wild said of his team’s balanced attack. “There’s not a lot of point differential between those four, and that really speaks to their unselfish play and how they’re continue to grow as a team.”
Cane Ridge attempted a last ditch effort, with Jada Anthony (team-high 11 points) and Geneva Vann (9 points)—the lone Lady Ravens’ starter from last season’s championship squad—engineering a 7-0 rally.
Late baskets by King and senior Jennie Barnette (2 points, 2 rebounds) ended the run while preserving the victory—Franklin’s first since a December 27th 51-35 win over the Lady Ravens during the Middle Tennessee Invitational tournament.
Even in victory, there remains room for improvement as the season gets tougher.
“We need to a do a little better job of limiting second chance shots,” Wild said. “If you’re controlling the ball and keeping them off the glass, you’re going to prevent them from scoring. You can’t score if you don’t have the ball.”
Minimizing its turnovers was a big key in correcting at least part of that flaw.
“Something that Coach Wild always preaches – make your biggest weakness, your biggest obsession,” Ryan notes. “Turnovers have been our biggest weakness so we’ve made that our obsession. We only had three tonight and we’re proud of each other after the game. We can check that off and move on to the next one.”
Another lesson learned.
Franklin (9-9/3-4) ends its three-game homestand on top, as they hit the road for a District 11-AAA matchup versus hosting Spring Hill on Friday.