STORY BY JAKE DONOVAN | PHOTO BY DEB SCALLY
Even in only scoring eight 3rd quarter points and squandering a 17-point first half lead, the Franklin Rebels still somehow managed to win big.
Efficient shooting (56% from the floor) and effective ball movement paved the way to a Rebels’ 76-53 win over Dickson County in a battle of District 11-AAA powerhouses Tuesday evening at Franklin High School.
Senior guard Reese Glover led the Rebels with 20 points, fighting through a Cougars double-team defense strategy for most of the night. Senior post Ahsharri Haynesworth added 17 points and 7 rebounds.
“Interestingly, we passed the ball better and scored more despite not having the ball as long,” Franklin head coach Darrin Joines said of his team’s ability to make wise choices on nearly every play. “If there was time of possession, I’m sure it was in their favor. But that just means our quality of shot was so good tonight.”
The steady stream of offense was well distributed, with only three Rebels reaching double figures (sophomore Matt Thurman added 10 before fouling out late) but nine players scoring at least one basket.
A lot of that was due to Dickson County’s deliberate effort in limiting the number of clean looks for Glover, who averages around 28 ppg. What many teams are quickly learning, is that neutralizing one weapon leaves you vulnerable for the rest of their arsenal.
“We have a lot of weapons. The thing with us, nobody cares who it is scoring,” points out Glover, who will bring his game to Missouri Western next fall. “If teams are going to keep double and triple-teaming me, I just have to find the open man. It doesn’t mean anything to have to give the ball up, we have so many weapons.”
One who doesn’t always show up in the box score but is constantly racking up hustle points is Glover’s backcourt mate, Reed Kemp. Tuesday’s district matchup saw the sophomore guard in his usual form of all gas, no brakes, making big plays on both ends of the floor.
“Reed is just a sophomore. Just think about the teams we’ve played, the pressure games. He just doesn’t show any fear,” notes Joines. “He definitely doesn’t play like a sophomore.
Kemp was instrumental in Franklin building a big 1st half lead, wreaking havoc on both ends of the floor in filling up every positive statistical category. The 5’11” guard even added a blocked shot on the night, setting up a fast break as part of a 43-point half for the Rebels who led by 16 at the break.
“Every game, I just want to keep my foot on the gas and be involved in every play,” said Kemp (9 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block). “We’re seeing a lot of pressure on Reese so we just have to find ways to step up and make the other teams pay.”
The Rebels did just that in a second quarter that saw the home team steadily pull away. Only a pair of threes by DJ Stacy even kept the game as close as it was by that point.
It would get even closer than that eight game-time minutes later, with the squat senior guard leading the charge.
A double-digit was quickly erased, aided by the hot hand of Stacy who matched Glover in leading all scorers with 20 points. Five straight points by Kody Pardue (13 points) had the Cougars within five by the end of the 3rd quarter, with a quick bucket by Stacy at the start of the 4th capping a 10-0 run and the Rebels clinging to a 51-48 lead.
“We had that one spurt where we didn’t score… and they did. It was a double whammy,” observed Joines. “But it was the only bad stretch we had offensively.”
Franklin came charging out of a timeout, erupting in a 16-2 rally that began with a three-point play by Haynesworth. The senior scored five straight points and seven in a 25-point 4th quarter which saw the Cougars only get point production from Stacy, responsible for all seven points in the frame.
It was a much-needed win for the Rebels, who improve to 13-4 overall and 6-1 in District 11-AAA play. They are tied for 1st place with Brentwood, who held off the Centennial Cougars on Tuesday and will host Franklin on January 15.
Dickson County (10-6/4-3) had a chance to upset the apple cart following a shocking loss to Independence last Friday but have now lost two straight and remain that much farther from the top. They have a chance to make up some ground when they face Summit on Friday.
Franklin will manage to squeeze in two more games before its pivotal meeting with Brentwood, whom they beat in their district home opener in November.
The Rebels return to the court on Thursday for the last of a three-game homestand, hosting Cane Ridge in a non-conference game. They will then hit the road on Friday, where they will face District 11-AAA rival Spring Hill for their fourth game in eight nights.
“I like this schedule,” Joines says in the midst of a hectic stretch. “The more you can simulate the tournament, the better off you’re going to be.”
That very thought process was the main motivator behind the Rebels not only hosting this year’s Middle Tennessee Invitational tournament over the holiday break but recruiting as many tough teams as possible.
Included among the lot was Cane Ridge, whom bested the Rebels 76-73 in the tournament’s 3rd place game. Franklin was down by as much as 20 in that game but came roaring back in the final quarter to considerably narrow the gap.
“It doesn’t impact our district standings, but the game certainly matters to us,” admits Joines. “It meant something during the tournament, but also with the main goal of just coming out stronger for the second half. Our game on Thursday, it’s not just a rematch; it’s also very possible we see each other again in mid-February (postseason play).”