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High School Basketball

Hoops: No. 4-ranked Independence ignites in 3rd to scorch Franklin

Indy girls start early in 47-26 victory

Hoops – Independence boys at Franklin

Matthew Witt of Independence works against Franklin's Jack Medalie on Friday in the Eagles 63-40 win. 

FRANKLIN – Matthew Witt admitted there was some added motivation heading into Friday’s Williamson County regional showdown at Franklin High School. 

Independence fell to Franklin in overtime at a Christmas tournament in Florida – one of just three losses for Witt and the Eagles this season. 

“There was a lot of fire in us,” the senior said. 

Independence was locked in, but so was Franklin – at least early on. The Eagles only led 30-27 at halftime, but everything shifted out of the break and that fire turned into an inferno as Independence went on a 22-1 run in the third quarter to explode past the Admirals 63-40. 

“At halftime, three points was just too close for us,” Witt said. “We were too fired up, so we just came out with more energy and decided to step on their throats.” 

The margin of victory was the largest for the Eagles against Franklin since February of 2016 when they won 70-50 in Thompson's Station. Independence won both meetings last year, but only by a combined 12 points. 

“When we get rolling, I think it just shows that we can beat anybody in the state,” said Independence junior Jett Montgomery, who scored a game-high 20 points. “As long as we are on our game, I really think we can do this to any team … but we have to be in it at every practice, every morning workout and every game.” 

Tylan Lewis added 19 and Witt closed with nine, while controlling the paint for the Eagles, who turned that 30-27 edge at the break into a 26-point advantage by the start of the fourth. 

Many Franklin fans headed for the exits long before the final buzzer after packing the gym expecting a similar 77-75 overtime contest won by the Admirals in the championship of Hilton Sandestin Beach Blowout on Dec. 30 in Freeport, Florida. Instead, the home team got no closer than 16 in the fourth. 

“I think people like to think that coaches make magical adjustments at halftime, but trust me, if I knew a magical adjustment, I wouldn’t wait until halftime,” Independence coach Mark Wilkins said. “These kids just kept believing in what we are trying to do. 

“This one meant a lot to them because they were pretty upset with that loss after Christmas. This is a huge confidence builder for us.” 

The Eagles were overflowing with confidence in the third, scoring the first 18 points out of the break. Montgomery and Lewis combined for a dozen early in the frame as Independence’s transition game ignited. 

Lewis scored on back-to-back possessions, including poking the ball loose on the perimeter and streaking in for a layup midway through the third for a 40-27 lead. Montgomery followed by slicing his way into the lane for a bucket at the 3:44 mark and then dropped in a 3-pointer after a Franklin miss as the lead ballooned to 45-27 with just over three minutes to play in the frame. 

“That was probably the best quarters I think I have ever been a part of,” Montgomery said. “We just decided we are going to punish them on everything we do – rebound, score and I think Matthew, Tylan, (Brayden) Buck, Josh (Owens), they all made huge defensive plays.” 

“We just got rolling,” Lewis added. “We flew around the court and pushed it more to get in transition and the whole team got going.” 

Davis Long broke the scoreless drought for Franklin with a free throw with 1:32 to play in the third. The Admirals trailed 48-28. 

Owens responded with a no-look feed to a cutting Korben Walling on the next Eagles’ possession and Lewis added another layup before the quarter closed. Buck opened the fourth by swiping the ball near midcourt and hitting Montgomery in stride on the break to give Independence its biggest lead at 54-28 inside the first minute of the fourth. 

“I just don’t know, I mean we came out firing and played well in the first half, but then they came out and were just so much more ready to play than us,” said Long, who knocked down four 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 15 points to lead Franklin. “We knew what we had to do, but we just failed to do it. 

“Basketball is a game of runs and we didn’t make one back.” 

The loss was the fourth in five games for the Admirals in a stretch that began when Franklin lost 6-foot-6 sophomore Christian Brown to a season-ending leg injury early this month. 

“We’re still figuring it out without Christian because he was such a big piece for us, but we can’t keep doing this,” Long said. “We can’t keep saying we are going to learn from these games and then fail to go out and win the big ones like this. At some point, we are going to have to flip the switch.” 

Sam Medalie also netted 15 for the Admirals, including 10 in the fourth. 

The Eagles were coming off a narrow 45-44 District 12-4A win at Ravenwood and sit at 4-0 in league play. They host a district matchup against Columbia Central Tuesday and head to Summit next Friday. 

“We can’t get comfortable,” Witt said. “We need to keep this energy going.” 

Franklin will play at Independence on Feb. 7, but also begins the second half of District 11-4A play at home next week against Overton and Hillsboro. 

The Independence girls cruised early at Franklin in the opener of the double-header scoring 23 of the first 25 points to open a big lead and up-end the Admiral girls. 

Savanna Seay tallied a dozen to lead a balanced attack for the visitors. The suffocating Independence defense allowed just two made field goals in the first half and nine for the game. 

“I thought we did a really good job of containing their shooters and their drivers,” Eagles coach Tony Hill said. “You hold a 4A basketball team in the state of Tennessee to under 30 points, that’s a good defensive effort.” 

Franklin shot just 26% from the field. The Admirals found some footing after the hall behind Amy Elliott (13 points), but the Eagles closed with a late run. 

Friday was also Hill’s birthday. The Independence students and team sang Happy Birthday to him at halftime. 

“You know, I’m 25 for the 31st time,” he joked. 

The veteran coach said he’s proud of the direction his team is headed, especially after picking up a 52-41 district win at Ravenwood Tuesday and following that up with Friday’s performance. 

“I hope we can sustain the effort,” he said. 

Independence girls 46, Franklin 27 

IHS 16 9 7 14 – 46 

FHS 2 5 12 8 – 27 

IHS (46) – Aaliyah Fleming 4, Savanna Seay 12, Katy McDonald 4, Eden Oates 8, Evy Nichols 7, Annie Gibbs 9, Riley Brooks 2. 

FHS (27) – Emma Powell 2, Anna Walton Wright 1, Amy Elliott 13, Josie Hammond 4, Lyla Gardner 5, Liza Kate Thurman 2. 

3-pointers – IHS 2 (Seay, Oates), FHS 1 (Elliott). Total Fouls – IHS 12, FHS 14. Fouled Out – None. 

Independence boys 63, Franklin 40 

IHS 12 18 22 11 – 63 

FHS 11 16 1 12 – 40 

IHS (63) – Jett Montgomery 20, Bradley Stewart 3, Tylan Lewis 19, Josh Owens 2, Korben Walling 4, Brayden Buck 6, Matt Witt 9. 

FHS (40) – Jack Medalie 3, Sam Mewborn 2, Davis Long 15, Sam Medalie 15, Riley Jordan 3, Cooper Jordan 2. 

3-pointers – IHS 7 (Montgomery 3, Buck 2, Stewart, Lewis), FHS 9 (Long 4, S. Medalie 3, J. Medalie, R. Jordan). Total Fouls – IHS 9, FHS 9. Fouled Out – None.