Shooting Touch: CBA (N.J.) 60, Franklin 48

MEDFORD, Mass. -- It could have been very easy for Franklin to just give up after going down by 24 points to Christian Brothers Academy (N.J.) Saturday at the Shooting Touch Shootout, but it didn’t.

Franklin coach Dean O’Connor could have conceded and emptied his bench, but his players fought back and slowly closed the gap. It was to little too late, however. The lead never got into single digits and Christian Brothers Academy left with a 60-48 victory.

“I’m very encouraged but he way we finished,” said Franklin (2-3) coach Dean O’Connor. “It looked like they might blow it open and we kept fighting. It would’ve been easy to quit, and we didn’t. We talked at halftime about just getting better. I think we did that in the second half. I’m not surprised that the kids kept fighting. We finished really strong, so that is something to build off moving forward.”

CBA made it a point to attack the interior of the Franklin defense early, matching up 6-foot-7 sophomore Pat Andree against 6-foot-6 Marcus Giese in the post. Andree got the better of that matchup, finishing with 16 points and 8 rebounds. The big man has range that can extend out to the three-point line, hitting two Saturday afternoon. Those kinds of skilled big men was something Franklin was not used to seeing and had to adjust to on the fly. CBA junior Jack Laffey added 19 points from the guard position

“The difficult thing with them is they have size at all positions and we’re not very big,” said O’Connor. “I really have two or three big guys, so they had us outsized at all positions. You try to work in front and then get help side but they make it tough because they have guys that can shoot too, so you do the best you can to try to work the ball in front and stop the ball from getting in there.”

With 5:30 to go in the game, CBA had a 20-point lead, but Franklin did not pack it in. It chipped away at the lead, and at one point switched to a full-court press that initially gave CBA fits.

“I think it was a lot faster, the pace of the gam up until that point was kind of slow,” said Franklin senior Dan McDermott. “It really sped everything up and I don’t know if they were ready for that so late in the game. After we were down by so much and came back, it kind of caught them off-guard.”

Staying to the end: O’Connor flirted with the idea of emptying his bench and getting more players playing time, but the game never got to a point where he felt it was necessary. Saturday was going to be a learning experience and an opportunity for his team to get better, and the only way to do that was to keep the team playing until the very end.

“It’s about focusing on getting better, and you have to play hard in order to do that,” he said. “There was a point there when it was getting close and both teams were looking to get some other guys in there that don’t play as much, but we tried to combine and mix some guys in there. Once we got the thing under 15 points, we said okay let’s press them and try to win. You can’t ever quit. The kids have too much pride.”

Tough two-game swing: It was the second game in as many days for Franklin. Coming into the weekend, it had suffered back-to-back losses, including a 32-point loss to Catholic Memorial. While it won only one its games, the team still felt like it learned a lot about itself.

“We learned we have a lot of guys that just want to work hard,” said senior captain Chris Rodgers (20 points, 5 rebounds). “You could see at the end, when we did our run and jump stuff with our press, everyone was playing hard and things were working for us. We learned that we can get up and defend a little bit, especially with our pressure defense.”

While it will go down as a loss in the record book, this could be remembered as one of those losses a team builds off and helps set it up for the rest of the season.

“This is definitely a positive weekend for us,” said Rodgers. “We split our games, but as a team we got better. That’s all that really matters. We might’ve found a little bit of an identity.”

Both of its games at the Shooting Touch were non-league games, so the loss does not hurt its standings in the Hockomock Kelly-Rex division.