STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTO BY DEB SCALLY
Heading into the locker room trailing 37-30 at halftime, it felt like déjà vu all over again for Franklin. For the second time in three weeks they found themselves on the wrong end of a momentum swing versus the visiting Cane Ridge Ravens.
Whereas the Rebels came storming back in the 4th quarter only to come up just short, their 30-point 3rd quarter outburst proved just the remedy in earning a 79-74 win Thursday evening at Franklin High School.
So what was the difference in terms of halftime conversation between games?
“Nothing,” Franklin head coach Darrin Joines proudly admitted to Home Page. “I’ll be honest, there are certain things about coaching that are overrated. A wise man once told me ‘Take the credit when they give it to you, because you’ll sure take the blame when they’re looking for someone.’ So maybe I should take credit.
“But honestly, it was nothing. It wasn’t about getting mad or anything. Our slant at halftime, we just touch on a couple of key points and that’s it. I wish I can say there was some magic. But it’s all credit to the players.”
The biggest swing came in scoring opportunities for Reese Glover. The senior guard and Missouri Western commit was held to just 9 points in the first half, but went off for 12 of his game-high 33 in a pivotal 3rd quarter that saw Franklin turn a 7-point deficit into a 9 point lead which they’d never relinquish.
“It always feel nice to score,” admitted Glover, who had been somewhat contained his past few games while facing double- and triple-team defensive schemes.
As was the case three weeks ago, Cane Ridge elected to guard him straight up for most of the game.
“The thing with playing Franklin, everyone knows that Glover is going to find a way to score,” Cane Ridge head coach Marlin Simms explained. “The trick is to not let their other players burn you. So you have to make sure you don’t get burned by all their other weapons. Do what you can with Glover, but make sure you pay attention to (senior forward Ahsharri) Haynesworth, pay attention to 32 (sophomore center Matt Thurman).”
The tactic put heavy pressure on senior Kyle Elliott, who drew the task of guarding arguably the best pure shooter in middle Tennessee.
“I tried to make it as difficult as possible, make him uncomfortable,” said Elliott, who led Cane Ridge with 16 points before fouling out late in the 4th quarter. “We were all in (mentally and physically) for this game but we just have to do better finishing it out. We didn’t do that tonight.”
They started out strong, with Caleb Wilson and William Hoyle joining Elliott in stroking threes and spreading out Franklin’s defense. When they weren’t going long, the Ravens were able to dump the ball inside to Brandon Miller, who scored 12 of his 14 in the 1st half.
“Guarding Brandon is tough; it’s easy to forget that he’s only a freshman,” admits Matt Thurman, himself just a sophomore who has drawn similar accolades for his own advanced play. “He has three years to grow into a truly elite player.”
The Franklin coaching staff firmly believes such a player already exists in their 15-year old post player, who delivered 14 points and a team high 16 rebounds for the Rebels.
“Matt is a physical presence. He is not afraid to mix it up,” insists Joines. “I’ve always been impressed by that, even when he was a 14-year old freshman. What’s really impressed me about him lately is that he’s rebounding outside of his area. It’s one thing to get rebounds in your post but Matt’s boxing out and then running to the other side of the court.”
Thurman’s tireless efforts were instrumental in keeping the game as close as it was in the first half and even more so in turning the tide coming out of the halftime break. Back-to-back putbacks early in the 3rd quarter ignited a 16-5 run to erase the early deficit and give Franklin the lead for good.
“It’s always going to be like this,” notes Ravens senior Devon Starling of playing Franklin.
The two-sport stud athlete—who last fall became the first-ever player from Cane Ridge to earn the Mr. Football award—got hot in the 4th quarter, draining a three and playing tough defense down low in his best effort to slow down Thurman and Haynesworth (7 points).
“Franklin is a great team and especially Reese, he’s such a great player,” said Starling, who scored 14 points as one of four Ravens to reach double figures. “Coach tells us every time we play them, no matter what happens Reese is gonna make his shots. You just have to play through it.”
Glover would score 12 points each in the 3rd and 4th quarters, but more so than their 43-point second half, it was Franklin’s play on the other side of the court that helped the game change course.
“We did a better job of making them feel a little more pressure,” Joines points out, perhaps finding that magical answer after all. “They got to an open shot much quicker in the first half. In the second half, it took them an extra pass or two to find that shot, and that’s what leads to forced shots, leads to errors.
“When you’re used to making a shot in four shots and now have to do it in six, it throws you off. So yeah, our offense exploded in the 3rd quarter, but our defense really laid it out. We had a few runouts as a result, it just really opened everything up.”
Cane Ridge corrected that flaw in the 4th quarter, beginning with Caleb Wilson draining a triple. Consecutive baskets by Miller and Elliott gave the Ravens seven unanswered points amidst a 14-5 run that had them within one heading into the final four minutes.
Three straight defensive stops by Franklin put the game away for good, with Glover scoring seven points during that stretch. One last gasp by the Ravens saw its fate sealed when Haynesworth delivered down low on a three-point play.
“We had a lot of guys contribute,” noted Glover. “I’m just proud of our whole team. Our potential is incredible and we can only get better.”
Their familiar foes feel the exact same way about their own chances during the second half of the season.
“We did our best, but just came up short tonight,” notes Starling. “It was the same game as it was a few weeks ago, just a slightly different outcome. But I have no doubt we’re going to see them again in the regions.”