Shooting Touch: Franklin 55, No. 16 Spellman 48

MEDFORD, Mass. -- Franklin started off its weekend as well as it could, with a 55-48 victory over No. 16 Cardinal Spellman Friday at the Shooting Touch Shootout.

It was just the kind of physical, back-and-forth win Franklin (3-2) needed coming off a 32-point loss to Catholic Memorial earlier in the week.

“Our No. 1 thing was that we would have to try and outwork them, which is a difficult task because they’re a hard working team,” said Panthers head coach Dean O’Connor. “We held our own as far as effort. Coming off the last two losses, we’re working on getting better. We’re really not focused on a game plan as much against a certain team. We’re just trying to get better this point in the year. We did show a lot of grit and heart. We were down six and the fourth quarter and came back, so hopefully that’s something to build off of.”

Franklin took a 27-23 lead into halftime, but it was not without its own self-inflicted issues. It regularly turned the ball over and seemed to be fighting the traveling bug in the first half. Six of its 17 turnovers came from traveling violations.

“That’s kind of been an issue the whole season,” said senior Chris Rodgers (20 points, 13 rebounds). “We’re still working on it. It should be something we can avoid, so we’ll just keep working on it in practice. That’s all we can do.”

Rodgers was a big reason why Spellman’s lead never got above six at any point in the game. His effectiveness on the boards prevented any Spellman second-chance opportunities and helped kick-start his team’s transition game.

“He was our second leading rebounder last year,” said O’Connor of Rodgers. “He’s gotten a lot better. His second jump is more explosive. At times he’s playing the four for us, even though he’s a two-guard. We can go with a small lineup, and we can do that because he can rebound.”

Offensively, he was a perfect 8-of-8 on free throws.

Franklin outscored Spellman 15-6 in the fourth quarter to walk away with the victory.

Spellman’s Joe Crane lead all scorers with 27 points. He was 6-of-7 from the free throw line.

Breaking Spellman's zone: Spellman spent the majority of the game in a form of a zone defense. To start the game, it extended its zone out to half court to try and pressure the Franklin guards.

“They were really extending out from all the guard spots,” said Rodgers. “What really helped us out was trusting our big men in the middle. Once they started making plays, we figured everything out and everything came together.”

Later, it slide back into a more traditional 2-3 zone to force Franklin to play its game on the perimeter.

“We did a good job of skipping the ball and then either taking the open shot or getting the defense to run out at us and playing from there,” said O’Connor. “If you keep it on one side against the zone, you’re in trouble. That was the key to getting some open looks. Most of our points were off rebounds or transition because they do such a good job in their matchup zone. We solved it a little bit, but I’m glad we don’t have to play it again.”

Hedge clippers: In the first quarter, Spellman attempted to set up its ball screen offense and get free cutters rolling to the basket. Franklin initially struggled to defend it, sometimes with both defenders committed to defend the ball handler and forgetting about the player cutting to the basket.

“Their big guys are good and they screen well,” said O’Connor. “You’re worried about Ryan Roach (3 points) and Austin Joseph (8 points) shooting the ball. We just weren’t rotating. They either got their guy to turn the corner (and go to the basket) or they were hitting the guy on the roll because we weren’t in the correct defensive position. In the second half, we got a little better at it. They didn’t get as many easy hoops off it.”

To get the ball handler to commit and make a decision with the ball, the defender guarding the screener jumped out and hedged to cut off the lane to the basket and to try and force the defender to pick up his dribble. That was when the screener would slide his way to the weak side post for an easy layup.

“We weren’t hedging very hard, so that was something we needed to work on, but once we started going that, they started getting those rolls” said Rodgers. “It really came together when we had the help side guys really helping out more.”

Up next: Franklin is back in action on Saturday for Day 2 of the Shooting Touch Shootout. It will take on Christian Brother’s Academy from Lincroft, New Jersey. The team knows next to nothing about its opponent.

“We don’t know much,” said Rodgers. “I know they have someone committed to play at Navy next year (Louie Pillari). We don’t know anything about them but we’ll just come out and play hard. That’s all we can do.”