The Franklin Rebels were able to erase a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter at Centennial to leave with a 68-64 win Tuesday night.
Franklin trailed the Cougars for nearly the entire game, but the Rebel players knew the score was never out of reach.
“The kids were resilient.” Franklin coach Jay Johnson said. “I think we gave up as coaches a couple times, kind of like ‘it’s just not our night.’ But kids came off the bench and played real well and brought us back.”
The game’s turning point came with seconds remaining in the third quarter with Franklin down 12 with the ball. As the clock was running out, guard Joe Critchlow flung the ball from the corner and hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
“The timeout right before we said ‘let’s get it down to 10 or less.’” Johnson said. “That’s a very manageable number. I guess the throw out of the corner going in, you know, I think it helped us and it might have hurt them. To be all over a guy and still have (Critchlow) throw one in takes a little wind out of your sails.”
Critchlow’s teammate, Hunter Nelson, was taking the wind out of the Cougars’ sails all night. Nelson had 15 points, all coming on 3-pointers, including one with 1:33 left in the game to cut the Centennial lead to three.
This is the game Johnson had been looking for from Nelson all season.
“We’ve been trying to get him to shoot and look for the 3 more.” Johnson said. “I kind of want him to take after Henderson from Ole Miss. Look for the 3, shoot it with your feet set and I thought he took good shots in the second half. When he takes good shots he can bury them. He’s confident, that’s for sure.”
Franklin finally took the lead with 30 seconds to go with an inbounds play with a back-door screen to Kyle Tackett. Tackett was fouled on the made layup and the free throw gave Franklin a 65-64 lead.
“We’ve run that several times,” Johnson said. “Ironically we stole it from Coach (Drew) Kelly when he was (at Centennial).”
From that point on the Rebels closed the game out going 3-4 from the free throw line in the last seven seconds to complete the 68-64 victory.
Senior center Ben Hagaman led the Rebels with 19 points with Critchlow adding 12. Matt Pond, for Centennial had a game high 24 with 20 coming in the first half. Cougar guard J.J. Johnson finished with 12.