REYNOLDSBURG — The tale of two halves resulted in a season-opening victory for Franklin High School’s girls basketball team Sunday afternoon.
It’s a veteran group with high hopes for the 2018-19 campaign, so the less-than-great showing in the second half against Worthington Kilbourne didn’t sit very well with Wildcats coach John Rossi. But the overall performance went in the books as a 45-36 win in the Gary West Memorial Tipoff Classic VII at Reynoldsburg.
“We just didn’t look like a team that had a lot of experience late in the game, to tell you the truth,” Rossi said. “We’ve always felt like we’re a slow-starting team, and we came out like gangbusters today. But we really looked a little bit tired and fatigued in the second half. I think our kids are a little out of shape, and that’s my fault.”
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University of Akron signee Layne Ferrell had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Franklin, and Jordan Rogers collected eight points, four assists and three boards.
The Wildcats jumped ahead 15-2 and never trailed, leading by as many as 18 points before taking a 31-15 advantage into halftime.
That margin got whittled down to 33-28 and 35-30 in the third stanza as Franklin was en route to 25 turnovers, 15 after intermission. Kilbourne couldn’t get any closer, though it was still a 7-point game on two occasions in the fourth quarter.
“We played a really good first half, and then in the second half, it kind of felt like we had already won it, so we kind of pulled off,” said Rogers, a sophomore guard. “I felt like we were going to pull through because we started to play together more towards the end. We started to take care of the ball more, unlike what we were doing in the third quarter. We just kind of figured it out.”
Rossi said he told his players at halftime about the importance of winning the first four minutes of the third stanza.
“And they came out and took it right to us,” Rossi said. “I felt like defensively we weren’t in any kind of rhythm in the second half. But give Kilbourne a lot of credit. Their kids were very quick, and we felt like they were beating us to the 50-50 balls. I didn’t feel like the lead was going to melt away, but I looked up in the second half and they only had two or three fouls, so we knew they were going to put a lot of pressure on us. And we didn’t handle the pressure very well.”
Freshman guard Celeste Sloma powered the Wolves and fired in nine of her 18 points in the third period. Teammates Lauren Scott and Julia Taylor added seven and six points, respectively.
Kilbourne coach Jim Strode said his scouting of the Wildcats led him to believe that pressure would get to them.
“But our depth is not necessarily there just yet,” Strode said. “Our legs aren’t quite there. We don’t go 10, 12 deep for us to be able to pressure the entire game.
“Once we started to figure out that we could get them a little bit rattled … our kids get pretty fired up when defense turns to offense. It was working in the second half. We’ve got a couple different press looks that we use, and our kids were buying into it and working hard. It helps when you can get a few shots to fall.
“As a coach, I was also being a realist and recognizing that we got it down to five by running the same five kids that entire time, and they were starting to show a little wear. We needed to be able to sneak players in there and give some of those kids that were killing it on the court a break. That’s what I was thinking. How could we salvage our legs and keep doing this for the remainder of the game? I was hibernating a couple of my timeouts to call in certain situations late in the game, but we never got to that.”
The Wolves’ offense failed them down the stretch. Missing four straight free throws in the last 71 seconds didn’t help.
The 5-foot-8 Sloma earned Strode’s praise for her scoring and defensive work against the 6-1 Ferrell, who averaged 22.6 points per game last season. Sloma guarded Ferrell when she was away from the basket, and 6-2 senior Sarah Baxter took over when Ferrell was down low.
“It’s players making plays,” Strode said of Ferrell. “She got us a couple times with that little dribble drop step. We tried to help, but they also have a couple shooters you have to mind as well. It’s a pick-your-poison kind of team.”
Kilbourne started two freshmen and a sophomore. Sloma and Amya Harrris grabbed six rebounds apiece for the Wolves, who will host Marion Harding on Tuesday.
Brooke Stover had nine boards and three assists for the Wildcats. Karsen Quillen chipped in six poinnts on back-to-back 3-pointers in the second period, and Kaylee Harris added five points, seven rebounds and three steals.
“It’s our first game of the season, so obviously we’re just going to push forward,” Rogers said. “We have high goals, and we really think we can achieve those goals. If we come closer together as a team, I feel like we can go even farther than we did last year.”
Franklin, a Division II regional semifinalist last season, will begin Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division play at home Tuesday against Brookville.
KILBOURNE (0-1): Celeste Sloma 4 7 18; Julia Taylor 2 2 6; Lauren Scott 3 1 7; Amya Harris 1 1 3; Reilly St. Myer 1 0 2. Totals: 11-11-36
FRANKLIN (1-0): Jordan Rogers 2 3 8; Skyler Weir 1 0 3; Layne Ferrell 8 4 21; Brooke Stover 1 0 2; Karsen Quillen 2 0 6; Kaylee Harris 2 1 5. Totals: 16-8-45
3-pointers: K 3 (Sloma 3), F 5 (Quillen 2, Rogers, Weir, Ferrell)