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Comcast: No. 13 Franklin 51, No. 3 Newton N. 47

NEWTON, Mass. -- Every superhero has their kryptonite.

For the seemingly unstoppable Newton North Tigers (20-2) and their sharpshooting captain Tommy Mobley, that quintessential adversary appeared in the form of Franklin (17-4), as the hard-nosed Panthers edged the Tigers 51-47 to win the 25th annual Comcast/Arbella Classic.

Franklin held a team that came into this contest averaging 77.9 points per game to a season-low 47. The Tigers managed to score just four points in the opening quarter, while turning the ball over seven times, as they struggled against the Panthers’ stifling man-to-man defense.

Slowing down Mobley, a two-time Bay State Conference scoring champion and MVP, was the priority for the visiting team. And that monumental task fell on the shoulders of Franklin’s senior captain, Dylan Reno.

“He’s one of the best shooters in Massachusetts, so I didn’t want to give him any space. I was fighting through screens, going over every one...my teammates did a great job of showing, and it was a battle,” said Reno.

Panthers head coach C.J. Neely added, “Our goal was just to make everything difficult. [Mobley] was going to get his points, we had to accept that. Great players score, even against great defenses, but we didn’t want to take a single possession off, force him off his first option, and hope for the best.”

That game plan seemed to work, as the Tigers tallied just three assists compared to 11 first-half turnovers, and shot 7 of 23 from long range throughout the contest.

Mobley finished with 23 points on 9 of 20 shooting from the field, and turned it over six times. For a shooter that compiled 61 points on near-perfect (20 of 26) shooting over his previous two games, it was a relatively inefficient night.

Down 45-35 with just over five minutes to play, Mobley sparked a comeback with a big triple, but it was freshman Ethan Wright that made the biggest impact down the stretch.

Wright tallied seven points, two rebounds, a steal, and a key assist in the final quarter, as the Tigers trimmed a ten-point deficit to two with 35 seconds remaining.

“They were mounting a comeback, and we knew we had to grind them out. We knew we just had to out-tough them, out-grit them, and win the dirty plays,” Reno said.

The Panthers were patient on that final possession, and swung the ball to Markus Bohmiller, who aggressively attacked the basket for a contested layup that put Franklin up 51-47, and sealed the victory.

Tough Matchup: Reno’s length gave Mobley problems all night, but the interior presence of 6-foot-6 center Marcus Giese was just as vital for the Panthers.

The lanky senior rolled to the basket for a number of key baskets in the second half, as Franklin kept Newton North at arms length.

For Neely, Giese’s production in this championship game represents the dramatic improvement of his on-court performance.

“I’ve seen him develop from a gangly sophomore that was really just a size guy, to someone who is a really skilled player,” said Neely. “And defensively, having him on the back line was a nice luxury for us, so that when Reno did get beat on the perimeter, [Mobley] was driving right into Giese.”

It didn’t hurt that the officials let the athletes play, as the teams combined to shoot just seven free throws in the tournament’s final game. With Giese taking full advantage of the rule of verticality, the Panthers were able to protect the rim, and keep the Tigers off the scoreboard.

As the old saying goes, defense wins championships, but it helps to have a fantastic individual defender that can match up with the opposition’s best player.

“Reno’s incredible,” Neely effused. “We challenge him every game to go out and guard the other team’s best player, and he’s frustrated a lot of people this year. I can’t say that his performance surprises me tonight, and we’re just fortunate that we were able to make enough plays to come out on top.”

Franklin 51, Newton North 47

FR 13 11 17 10 --- 51

NN 4 12 14 17 --- 47

Top Performers:

Newton North – Tommy Mobley (23 points)

Newton North – Ethan Wright (10 points, 2 assists, 3 steals)

Newton North – Napoleon Miller (3 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists)

Franklin – Dylan Reno (17 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists)

Franklin – Marcus Giese (14 points, 9 rebounds)

Franklin – Markus Bohmiller (7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals)