MONROE — It’s way too early to celebrate anything in the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division, but big wins should still be savored.
The Franklin High School girls basketball team planned to do that briefly Thursday night after going on the road and taking down previously unbeaten Monroe 42-27, getting 14 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and three assists from University of Akron signee Layne Ferrell.
“This is a war for us,” Wildcats coach John Rossi said after his squad improved to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the SWBL. “The kids really had a lot of intestinal fortitude. They persevered through a tough time today. And anytime you can come to Monroe and get a win like that, it’s pretty gratifying.”
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Franklin played without Kaylee Harris (illness) and Emma Bicknell (shin splints). Center Emily Newton was sick, but got through the game with six points and four rebounds.
Between not feeling well and taking an elbow to the face during the physical affair, Newton had a weary look when it was over.
“Coming into their house, it was really important for us to get ahead of the game in the league,” the 5-foot-11 senior said. “We knew they were going to be really mean and aggressive. We had to pick up our strength and aggressiveness on the court in order to pick up the win.”
The Southwestern championship chase is expected to be a four-team throwdown involving Monroe, Franklin, Valley View and preseason favorite Bellbrook.
Monroe (2-1, 1-1) rallied to win 31-29 at Bellbrook on Monday and will host Valley View (4-1, 3-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m., while the Wildcats will be at home against Bellbrook (0-2, 0-1) at 1:15 p.m.
“It’s going to be nip and tuck, nip and tuck,” Newton said. “After last season and what we brought back, we’re not hunting this year. We’re the hunted. We’ve got to keep being aggressive and pushing through.”
Franklin never trailed Thursday, leading 12-4 at the first stop and 18-9 at halftime. The margin did not drop below eight in the second half.
Olivia Wells-Daniels paced Monroe with 10 points and seven boards. She hasn’t practiced this week and didn’t start after suffering a knee injury in Monday’s win.
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“I think we were very flat tonight all around. There was no emotion on that floor from us,” Hornets coach Chad Allen said. “We tried different things to pick them up, but it just wasn’t working. Franklin kicked our butt — it’s as simple as that. That’s why we play twice a year, so we can try to get them back later.”
Monroe’s defense was still pretty solid. It’s no easy feat to hold Franklin to 42 points, and Ferrell brought a 20.3 scoring average into the game.
The Hornets’ offense? That was an altogether different story.
“That’s two games in a row we’ve been bad offensively,” Allen said. “One game, you might say it’s just an aberration. But two games, the coach is screwing up and doesn’t have them ready to play, and that’s where we’re at right now.
“We just want to throw the ball to the other team. Teams aren’t even pressing us and we’re turning the ball over. We’re having trouble just throwing the ball to the wing. We look like a junior high team on offense. It almost cost us the game against Bellbrook, and it definitely cost us the game tonight. That’s all on me. I’ve got to get it figured out.”
On the flip side of that was a strong defensive effort by Franklin. Its man-to-man approach led to foul trouble, and a switch to a 2-3 zone proved to be beneficial.
“It was more of a matchup, and our kids really extended and were able to close out and get hands in their faces,” Rossi said. “We were going to let them shoot from the perimeter. We just wanted to stay in front of Wells-Daniels and (Sophie) Sloneker, and for the most part, we did. We won the 50-5o balls in the second half. In the first half, we didn’t.”
Rossi is always looking for more offensive production beyond Ferrell, and of the 16 points the Wildcats scored in the third period, 12 came from Jordan Rogers, Skyler Weir and Newton.
Rogers had 13 points and three boards, while teammate Brooke Stover added six points and six boards.
“Our kids came together as a group,” said Rossi, praising the spot duty off the bench from Madison Earles, Karsen Quillen and Kristin Earles. “We asked them all just to do a little bit more, and we had kids step up.”
The Hornets totaled 19 turnovers. Franklin had 13.
“I feel like we could’ve done way better in terms of passing the ball, me especially. I made a couple crappy passes,” Newton said. “If we hadn’t turned the ball over so much, we would’ve been more successful offensively.”
FRANKLIN (4-1, 3-0 SWBL Southwestern): Jordan Rogers 5 2 13; Skyler Weir 1 0 3; Layne Ferrell 3 8 14; Brooke Stover 3 0 6; Emily Newton 2 2 6. Totals: 14-12-42
MONROE (2-1, 1-1 SWBL Southwestern): Sophie Sloneker 0 3 3; Kylee Slone 3 0 7; Alyssa Beckett 0 2 2; Sam Schwab 2 0 5; Olivia Wells-Daniels 4 1 10. Totals: 9-6-27
3-pointers: F 2 (Rogers, Weir), M 3 (Slone, Schwab, Wells-Daniels)