After a tough loss to Pisgah last week, the Franklin boys basketball team rebounded nicely with a signature win against arch rival Smoky Mountain last Friday night, followed by two convincing wins against Highlands and the Murphy Bulldogs.
The win on the road against Smoky Mountain, last year’s conference champions, was a statement game for the Panthers. “I was proud with how we played, how we handled their pressure,” said head coach Jesse Pinkston. “They threw a lot at us but we responded well and it was a big win for us,” he said. In their second conference road game of the year, in a hostile environment, the Panthers attained redemption against a team that beat the Panthers soundly last year, winning 61-51.
One main ingredient for Franklin’s success at Smoky Mountain was their ability to establish an inside game, utilizing their size advantage against a much smaller Mustang team. Pinkston did say that if they could get their big men, Anthony Capaforte and Jacob Davis, some touches it would lead to success and open up Franklin’s outside game, led by sharpshooters Drew Simpson and Jeb Brewer. That’s exactly what happened against the Mustangs.
The 6’9” Anthony Capaforte and 6’6” Jacob Davis played big, putting up 11 and 10 points respectively against the Mustangs. Jeb Brewer, who has consistently been Franklin’s leading scorer this season, led the team with 19 points. The lefty’s quickness and innate ability to score has been a tremendous asset to the Panthers so far.
Franklin did not have much time to celebrate their win against the Mustangs, as they faced Highlands on one day’s rest last Saturday night, Dec. 17. The Panthers were victorious, winning 61-31. A lot of players got in on the action against the Highlanders, but Drew Simpson led the Panthers with 12 points, while Jeb Brewer added 10.
After disposing of their inner-county rival, Franklin welcomed the Murphy Bulldogs to the Panther Den last Tuesday evening, Dec. 21. Jeb Brewer came out firing, knocking down several three pointers early on to get the Panthers started. Franklin’s aggressive defense caused a lot of problems for the Bulldogs, forcing many turnovers that led to easy buckets for Franklin in the first half. Franklin was also very active on the boards, dominating the inside and never giving Murphy a chance to rally.
Franklin was up 40-20 at halftime, and never let up from there, running the Bulldogs out of the gym, 71-49. Senior Jeb Brewer had a team high 23 points, despite sitting out through much of the second half because of foul trouble. “I am pleased with how we have been playing so far,” said Pinkston. “I like what we’re doing and our intensity is there. I think that win against Smoky Mountain means a lot, and I know we have a long way to go, but we are playing well. Murphy really handed it to us last year and I think our guys remembered that last night,” he said.
It can be easy for a young team to get rattled as the pressure rises during games, but so far, Franklin has handled the pressure with surprising success. Smoky Mountain could not force many turnovers against the Panthers, despite their reputation of being a hard-nosed defensive team. Murphy, who played several defenses in an effort to confuse the Panthers, could never quite get to Franklin.
When Murphy went to a full court press early in the second quarter, Franklin guards Trey Maslin, Jordan Howell, Jeb Brewer, and Austin Gibson broke their pressure every time. On two consecutive possessions in the second quarter, Franklin broke Murphy’s full court press and scored lay-ups. It would have impressed any hoops fans that appreciates ball movement and fundamental basketball, as Franklin managed to push the ball against Murphy’s full court pressure, and only put the ball on the floor when they had to.
The Panthers will face a huge test tonight when they travel to Hayesville. The Yellow Jackets are back to their old ways this year and they have one of their best teams since their 2004 state championship squad . “They are really good,” said Pinkston. “They like to trap teams with their 2-1-2 pressure, so we are going to have be ready to handle it. It should be a good game to watch.” The Panthers’ game at Hayesville will tip off at 8 p.m. at Hayesville High School. Franklin is currently 2-1 in conference play and 4-2 overall.
Franklin’s girls basketball team remain undefeated in conference play, and now stand at 5-1 overall after defeating Murphy last Tuesday night, 56-43. The Lady Panthers also defeated conference rival Smoky Mountain last Friday night, 60-50. Senior point guard Lindsay Simpson had a huge game against the Mustangs. The senior scored 37 points, had seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Simpson was perfect from the free throw line as well, going 17-17 from the stripe. Simpson got a lot of help from center Maggie Stewart, who had another double-double, posting 10 rebounds and 12 points against Smoky Mountain.
Franklin’s head coach Scott Hartbarger got another big conference win against a school that he formerly coached. Franklin had no problem with Highlands the following night either, and quite predictably, Simpson led all scorers with 19 points in their 68-42 win against Highlands. Maggie Stewart chipped in 16 points.
Although the Lady Panthers got somewhat complacent with Murphy last Tuesday night, they played well enough to win comfortably, 56-43. Simpson scored 22 points, while center Maggie Stewart controlled the boards with ten rebounds and seven points. Vanessa Argusa continues to play well for Franklin, scoring nine points against Murphy, adding five assists and six rebounds in another well rounded game for the freshman forward. The Lady Panthers look to continue adding onto their five game winning streak when they take on Hayesville on Thursday. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m.