BY JAKE DONOVAN
There was plenty of competition awaiting the Franklin Rebels boys basketball squad, well beyond the team standing on the opposite side of the court.
When all was said and done, the Rebels did their part to give Franklin High School its third win in as many events on the night, defeating the Hillsboro Burros 69-53 Tuesday evening on its own home campus.
Team leading scorer Reese Glover once again paved the way for the Rebels, with the senior and Missouri Western State University commit pouring in 35 points on 15/27 shooting. Heavily-recruited two-sport blue chip senior Ahsharri Haynesworth—a recent transfer from Centennial High School—added 17 points and seven rebounds in the win.
“It was a terrific team effort all around tonight, and that’s really what’s most important,” Franklin head coach Darren Joines told Home Page after the win, the Rebels’ third straight. “You have to look twice at the stat sheet just to realize Reese took 27 shots tonight. He finds ways to get the entire team involved, and not one of those shots were selfish.”
A well-rounded Rebels attack resulted in a game where they led the entire night, beginning with a three-pointer from Glover right out the gate. The Burros had few answers defensively for the red-hot two-guard, doing its best to compensate on the offensive end.
It’s been a familiar theme for the Rebels offense, which tends to live and die by the three-pointer. They were just 9/24 from behind the arc on Tuesday night, but hit enough in the first 24 minutes to build a 35-15 halftime lead.
The early run complemented a hectic sports night on campus, with the girls team winning big and the school making history in fielding its first-ever girls wrestling team—consisting of sophomores Bella Campbell and Annalise Dodson, both of whom pinned their opponents in their first match, which took place in the neighboring auxiliary gym.
Still, there was plenty of basketball to be played, a lesson the Rebels were nearly forced to learn the hard way.
“We jumped out to a big lead, but we knew at halftime that a team like that would want to come out and make a statement early in the second half,” admitted Joines, his vision proving prophetic. “We warned the boys to look out for it, and to be prepared to adjust in the event that it happened.”
It did indeed happen, with the Burros storming out to the tune of a 10-0 run to begin the third quarter and cutting the Rebels’ lead in half in the process.
Their go-to was 6’4” junior Ryan Wilcox, who led the Burros with 18 points on a perfect 9/9 shooting performance. The bulk of his points came on high percentage shots, slamming down six dunks including four in a pivotal 3rd quarter. Ese’ Owolo added a pair of three pointers in the opening minutes of the second half to ignite the rally, forcing the Rebels to call an early timeout with a 35-25 lead.
“We got a little complacent; Coach told us not to take the lead for granted but I think we did,” noted Glover. “The timeout really helped clear our heads, and put us back on track.”
Naturally, the senior found the ball and the bottom of the net on the first possession back, drilling a three to put the Rebels back up by 13 and really never looking back. Back-to-back layups by Haynesworth helped quiet another brief run by the Burros, who managed to creep within nine before Glover drilled a three at the buzzer to put the Rebels up 52-40 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Hillsboro had chances to close the gap in the fourth quarter. They did well in minimizing second chance scoring opportunities for the Rebels, but were often out hustled in the battle of the boards. With much of the focus on Glover, Haynesworth and Jordan Bruce (6 points), role players like point guard Reed Kemp (6 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals) and sophomore Matt Thurman (11 points) wind up making the difference.
“Reed might be the most underrated player on the team, if not the district,” Joines believes. “He’s hustling on every play, and even without scoring, he’s distributing the ball whether setting up the offense or even creating fast breaks off defensive rebounds. He had a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio tonight; those are the things that help us win ball games.”
All of the pieces will have to be in place for the team’s big rivalry game versus Brentwood, whom they host on Friday in their first district game of the season. While the offense is firing on all cylinders, the next two days of practice will focus on other key areas.
“We have to get tougher on defense, no question,” notes Haynesworth, a 6’4” senior center who made his Rebels debut on November 19. “Working on our 1-3-1 defense will be a priority; me personally, I have to do better in protecting the inside for my teammates.”
That type of selfless play and team awareness is worth more to the coaching staff than any amount of points this team can put up—and they put up a bunch.
“You know, all night we’re hearing the faculty and the students raving about the girls basketball team’s big win, the girls wrestling team and what they were able to do in the other gym tonight—it’s a reminder that we’re not just teams, we are Franklin first,” points out Joines of the overwhelming school spirit. “Everyone keeps talking about Ahsharri coming over from Centennial, what he did there—listen, he’s a Franklin Rebel, end of story.
“He came here all of what, 10 days ago and immediately gelled with this team. It’s contagious, the community that we are part of and it’s who we proudly represent whether we’re on the basketball court, the football field or the wrestling mat.”
The Rebels have won the past two installments of the Battle of Hillsboro Road after having lost the previous four meetings. With Tuesday’s win, they advance to 4-2 on the season and ride a three-game winning streak into Friday’s home game versus Brentwood.
Photo from previous season by Steve Wheeler.