STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTOS BY DEB SCALLY
It’s only one game into the second half of District 11-AAA play, but Tuesday’s rematch between Franklin and Brentwood came with a playoff atmosphere.
The setting was fitting, as it’s likely these two teams will see each other in the postseason.
For now, it’s Franklin who owns sole possession of 1st place in the district, with the Rebels fending off a late Bruins rally to prevail in a 53-51 road win Tuesday evening at Brentwood High School.
The game was in stark contrast to their district season opener in November, which Franklin claimed in a 71-63 home win. Neither team shot particularly well on Tuesday, with turnovers and well-defended shots stripping the game of any offensive flow.
It didn’t begin that way, with senior leader Ben Mills scoring the game’s first six points while Franklin struggled to find the basket. Brentwood followed the defensive playbook of many Franklin opponents this season, placing a strong emphasis on containing team-leading scorer Reese Glover.
The strategy worked only in that the Bruins managed to hold the senior guard to just 6 points. But as has been the case in many of his past several games, the Missouri Western commit didn’t need to light up the scoreboard in order for his team to win.
“If teams want to keep double and triple teaming him, we’ll take it,” Franklin head coach Darrin Joines said of the extra attention paid to his senior leader. “Look, we’ve seen essentially the same defensive scheme on Reese already four times in 2019 alone. And guess what? We’re 4-0 in those games.”
One player alone won’t keep a team at the top in the highly competitive 11-AAA division. As much as Glover loves to score, he’s just as ready to give up the rock.
The most recent benefits were senior post Ahsharri Haynesworth—who had 11 points on the night—and never-tiring sophomore guard Reed Kemp, who led the Rebels with 12 points.
“That’s the thing with our team. It’s not just one guy who will get you. We have a lot of weapons,” Joines points out, even if opposing teams can’t quite catch on. “Tonight was a big night for Reed, who had a bunch of steals and did a great job controlling the ball. Ahsharri and Matt Thurman (10 points) were huge as they’ve been all season.”
Franklin’s Thurman was responsible for the last Rebels field goal of the game, which came with nearly 6:00 to go. The basket put the visiting team ahead by six but having to rely on frequent trips to the foul line along with stellar defense to prevail in the end.
Brentwood took advantage of Franklin’s cold finish, chipping away at a 47-41 deficit beginning with a three from Cole Massey, who scored all of his nine points in the second half and from three point range. Senior shooting guard Jack Thurman also caught a hot hand late, going for 9 of his game-high 15 points in the final seven minutes of play.
The emergence of Haynesworth on the defensive glass was key in limiting Brentwood’s second-chance points.
Haynesworth managed to rip a rebound from the hands of sophomore John Windley late, drawing a foul in the process. However, his efforts to fend off an over-the-back Moore resulted in a swinging elbow which drew a technical foul.
“I’ve gotten used to teams going after me all season,” Haynesworth noted after the game. “The technical, I really don’t have anything to say about it. I was trying to free myself, but the referee saw what he saw and all I can do is just live with the call.”
It nearly proved costly. Haynesworth connected on one of two free throws, while Brentwood’s Thurman hit both of his foul shots as the team’s shooter on the technical. The sequence left Brentwood trailing 52-48, that margin trimmed to one when Thurman drained a three from the top of the key with 10.6 seconds to go.
A quick foul by Windley—his 5th—put Haynesworth back on the foul line, where he once again only hit one of two, giving Brentwood the ball with 9.4 seconds and Franklin clinging to a 53-51 lead. A collective exhale came over the Franklin staff, when a Moore floater at the buzzer bounced off the back of the rim.
The emotional play throughout the second half had a lasting effect on both team’s supporting fan base. Despite the game taking place at Brentwood, the Franklin side of the gym was standing room only, with “The Rebellion” spilling on to the court by game’s end to celebrate with the 1st place Rebels.
Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that the Bruins now have ground to make up if they are to advance beyond second place in 11-AAA. Brentwood is now 7-2 in district play, with both losses coming at the hands of Franklin (8-1/15-5 overall), who has won all five games in 2019 after losing two straight to close out December and 2018.
The latest comes despite not making a field goal in nearly the final six minutes and its season-leading scorer held to single digits.
“Just like we drew it up,” quipped Joines, who never throws back a win. “However we get there, it counts as a win in the end.”
Franklin returns home on Friday, hosting the Ravenwood Raptors in the Williamson County TV Game of the Week.
Brentwood will play its second straight home game, facing Dickson County on Friday before embarking on a three-game road trip.
Note: The article originally noted confusion or general disinterest from Brentwood exiting the court promptly after the game. Coach Greg Shirley has since notified us that there was a plan in place for Brentwood’s players to exit the court as to leave in an orderly fashion with the crowd on the court as it was, signifying no poor sportsmanship or confusion in the exit. There was also confusion in how a technical four was portrayed in the story. We regret the error and any confusion on our end.