FRANKLIN, Mass. -- Straight from the tip-off, it was obvious the championship game of the Franklin Holiday Hoop Classic would be an uptempo game. To start off the game, Franklin junior Jason McKie got a quick lay-up and then Charlestown sophomore Tyrese Hoxter registered an even quicker lay-up on the other end, making life for the stat keepers at the desk difficult.
And even though Franklin held a 20-point lead at the half, the Townies managed to chop away at the lead in the final quarter. But thanks to some heady play under the boards late, the Panthers were able to hold on for a 77-69 win to continue their surprising 5-0 start.
“Our strategy was to go fast on offense and slow them down on defense,” Franklin head coach Dean O’Connor said. “We tried to get easy baskets in the fast breaks and tried to make it so they don’t get easy baskets on offense. On defense, we tried to slow them down and make them move the ball around a little bit, which worked out well for us.”
Led by a handful of challenging shots and drives from Rony Fernandez (15 points, all in the second half) the Townies (3-1) stormed their way back into the game with each minute in the fourth. With 37 seconds left, Charlestown managed to fight all the way to make it a five-point deficit at 73-68. But Tyler Kessler grabbed a clutch rebound on a Charlestown miss and made outlet pass to Sam Bohmiller, who sunk two free throws to closeout the game. Free throws were a common theme for Bohmiller, as he went 10 for 10 from the line and finished the game with 12 points.
“Sam Bohmiller, who’s only a sophomore, probably played his biggest varsity game yet tonight. He did a great job under pressure,” senior captain and tournament MVP Kyle Gibson said. “He was able to work through the press and hit all of his free throws. We had some trouble rebounding the ball at times but in the end we just played team basketball and that helped us get the win.”
The track meet, however, started when Franklin took advantage of many unforced Charlestown turnovers, and went on a 14-4 run at the end of the first quarter. They were doing it all, whether it was executing their flex offense perfectly or getting steals and finishing at the basket effortlessly, and stretched the lead into the 20’s with an 11-2 run late in the second quarter.
Gibson (19 points, seven rebounds) powered many of Franklin’s first-half runs, whether he was killing his defender in the post or boxing out one of Charlestown’s high-flyers. Without question, his heightened rebounding ability has been one of the biggest keys for the Panthers so far.
“Before tonight, Kyle’s been averaging 22.5 points per game. He’s always been a good scorer but he’s rebounded the ball well lately along with being a good team leader," O'Connor said. "He is having a great year so far and we are very happy with him."
While Gibson and Bohmiller both had strong games, it might have been junior Jason McKie’s energy and defense that was the most important piece for Franklin.
“We’ve used Jason every game to cover the other team’s best perimeter player regardless of their size. Akosa [Maduegbunam] is a big guy and Jason is quick. Jason really made him work for the ball tonight,” said O’Connor.
McKie finished with 18 points, while Charlestown's star junior Maduegbunam -- stuck in foul trouble -- finished with an uncharacteristic 13.
“We’ve always been a fast break team and we continued that approach today," Gibson said. "They had to slow the game down at one point, since things were getting out of control, so we took advantage and got the win."
Little Things Make The Difference For Needham
Similar to the Franklin-Charlestown game, Needham held the lead for the majority of the game, but Medway chipped away at the lead throughout the game. Medway senior Joe Henry brought his inside-outside game at the Rockets, but fell short when Needham senior Kevin Farley hit two clutch free throws with 18 seconds remaining to escape with a 54-51 win.