FRANKLIN, Mass. -- In a battle for the last shot at a packed Franklin High Field House Saturday, the Panthers' junior point guard Sam Bohmiller had the audacity and the talent to take it.
After trading leads the entire afternoon with their Hockomock division rivals, Bohmiller rolled off a pick and nailed an in-motion trey with 26 seconds left to push the sixth-seeded Panthers ahead by two, 63-61 and on way to a defeat of No. 14 seed Mansfield.
A steal from the junior on the next drive proved the final piece in a 67-61 victory for Franklin as the Panthers (19-3) advanced to the semifinals of the Division 1 South bracket to face second-seeded Madison Park (18-2) on Wednesday.
“I do not really feel pressure,” said Bohmiller. “I have been playing basketball my whole life and have been in this situation a lot. We set a high-ball screen and the center went under it so I was open.”
The winning tally came seconds after senior Brian Hershman had put the defending D1 South champion Hornets (15-8) up 61-60 off a foul line jumper. Working the clock, the Hornets found Hershman side-stepping up to the line where he faded away to hit only net.
Mansfield attacked the basket on its next drive, but turned the ball over for a pair of game-sealing free throws by Franklin senior Matt Pellegri.
“I said 'Lets get an easy basket and don't panic or rush',” said Hornets coach Mike Vaughan. “The gameplan coming in was to neutralize their pressure by extending possessions and making sure we got the best shot available.”
The teams traded runs most of the night as the two sides switch leads ten times in the final half.
A pair of top-line treys by senior Terence O'Mara helped give the Hornets a 42-35 margin midway through the third. However, a steal and five down low baskets by senior Jason Mckie pushed the Panthers back up 45-42 late in the third.
The lead would not spread beyond two scores for the remainder.
“There were not many easy shots,” said Franklin coach Dean O'Connor. “It was good they went to a zone because we got a lot of open shots. They played a box-and-one at times to take (Bohmiller) out of the game so other guys had to step up.”
McKie lead the Panthers in scoring with 20 points in the Franklins third victory over Mansfield, while Bohmiller tallied 18.
After dropping down 15-9 early off a 3-pointer from O'Mara, the Hockomock Kelley-Rex division champ Panthers scored 13 straight to jump ahead 21-15 midway through the second. Seven consecutive points from Hershman, including a behind-the-arc notch, helped the Panthers pull ahead 21-15.
“This is the third time we played them so we knew they were going to come in hungry,” said Bohmiller. “We had to match their intensity and top it.”
As the Panthers found short open shots against the Mansfield's 2-3 zone the lead spread to eight late in the half.
A top-line trey by O'Mara combined with three blocks prompted a nine-score run by Mansfield to send the Hornets into breaks up 29-28. With a team that was missing three starters from its championship run, the senior dominated both on and off the boards with a game-high 27 points and four 3-pointers.
“His name is not in the paper every game, but he is giving you a steady 25 minutes every night,” said Vaughan. “For a while we were not moving so we got him some touches inside and he finished. In (this) type of game it is just who hits a shot late.”