Duke recruit Luke Kennard scores 35 in 62-55 Wildcats victory.
DAYTON — The near-capacity crowd at the University of Dayton Arena showed up early in order to see the third of three games on Friday night. What they didn’t expect was how close the game would be. The Franklin Wildcats defeated the Shawnee Braves 62-55 in a struggle that was in doubt until the final couple of minutes.
Shawnee tried to keep pace with the Wildcats, who features Duke-signee Luke Kennard, but the size and skill of Franklin was just too much for the Braves. Kennard was year’s Mr. Basketball and the favorite to repeat that award this season
Franklin led 12-10 at the end of the first quarter. Kennard was cold from the perimeter but still had eight of his team’s points. Shawnee junior forward Seth Gray also had eight after the quarter.
Shawnee tied it with a Gray jumper and the Braves hung around with frustrating defense by Zach Avery on Kennard. The 5-8 Avery switched off with 6-0 Andrew Tincher guarding the 6-6 Kennard.
Shawnee was limited to one shot on the offensive end of the floor with Franklin’s superior size. Shawnee was able to cut it to 23-21 with just over two minutes to play on back-to-back three’s by Nathan Bostick and Jaden Greenwood, but the Braves could get no closer in the first half and Franklin led 26-21 at the half.
Kennard had 14 first half points and missed all six of his three-point attempts, while Evan Crowe tallied seven points. For Shawnee, Gray had 13 first half points.
Shawnee shot 35 percent from two-point range in the first half and two of seven from long range. Franklin was 0-for-11 from three-point range in the first half but shot 41.7 percent from two-point range.
The second half saw Franklin storm out to an eleven point lead, but Shawnee hit a couple of more three’s and Gray hit a couple of lay-ups to cut it to 39-33.
Franklin continued to look for Kennard to create offense but Kennard picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with Franklin leading 43-37 after three periods. Gray also picked up his fourth foul, forcing Shawnee into a four guard line-up.
Franklin was able to separate themselves enough to pull away with the victory.
Shawnee head coach Chris McGuire was pleased with his team’s effort
“I credit my team,” McGuire said. “They (Franklin) are a great team, but out guys came in and believed they could win, came out with a lot of toughness, and executed our game-plan. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of young men.”
Kennard finished with 35 points and nine rebounds, and Crowe finished with 12. For Shawnee, they scrapped to the end and were led by Gray with 21 points and seven boards. Greenwood finished with 15 points and Tincher scored nine in his last career game.
Franklin coach Brian Bales was impressed with Shawnee.
“They are really well coached, they know their role, they know their system,” said Bales. “That guy (McGuire) is really good.”
“The key in the game was when Luke went to the bench with his fourth foul and our guys really stepped up the intensity.”
The Braves will be losing to graduation Caleb Potts, Greenwood, and Andrew Tincher. Greenwood and Tincher are leaving with quite the resume. They are the only four-year letter winners in the program’s history and lead the program with the 77 all-time victories. Greenwood is the school’s all-time scoring and three-point leader and Tincher is the all-time assists and steals leader.
Franklin moves on to play Bellefontaine in the regional semifinals next Thursday.