Franklin uses its stifling defense to defeat Bellbrook, 62-55, Friday night in an early-season Southwestern Buckeye League showdown.
The Wildcats led from the start, which the largest lead ballooned to 13 in the third quarter. Bellbrook fought its way back into the game and the Golden Eagles cut the deficit to just four points with just over four minutes left in the game.
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But a technical foul on the Golden Eagles (3-2, 3-1 SWBL Southwestern) turned the tide back in Franklin’s favor. Cole Bundren hit 1-of-2 free throws after the technical and Payton Knott hit several free throws down the stretch for the Wildcats (6-0, 2-0).
“That was a momentum swing,” Franklin coach Brian Bales said. “Down the stretch we connected on the free throws and our guys were good at getting the ball in Payton’s (Knott) hands. I am a lucky guy to have a guy like that. I feel very comfortable with the ball in his hands.”
Knott finished with 20 points, 11 of which came from the free-throw line. Senior Jared Kinzer added 14 points for Franklin.
The Wildcats struggled to hit outside shots, but the defense was able to shut down Bellbrook’s leading scorers Donnie Crouch and Caleb Scott. Going into the game Bales stressed to his team that a key to winning the game was to limit their scoring output. Combined they were averaging close to 20 points per game, but the pressure defense held them to five points apiece.
“Bellbrook is a very good team and it was a very fortunate win for us,” Bales said. “We average 12-to-13 three-point baskets a game, and tonight we only had five so there are times we have to win with our defense and we did that tonight.”
Bellbrook coach Donnie Tate prepared his players for the Wildcats’ pressure defense.
“We did a decent job with the press half the time, and the other half was self-forced turnovers,” Tate said. “This is the biggest challenge for us so far, but for us this is a part of the 22-game process. This is a new group of kids, so we are still putting the pieces together. This is a good test in a hostile environment.”
Storm Painter came off the bench to lead Bellbrook with 18 points. The Bellbrook bench outscored Franklin 26-1.
Bellbrook is back on the court Saturday at home against Northridge, and Franklin plays Preble Shawnee on the road Tuesday.