MASON — Layne Ferrell knew she’d be a central figure if Franklin High School’s girls basketball team was going to rally for a victory Friday evening.
Her simple reaction to the pressure situation: “I was good with it.”
The 6-foot-1 senior lived up to her billing as a Mid-American Conference recruit by pouring in 31 points, a staggering 21 in the fourth quarter, as the Wildcats earned their second straight Division II district championship by defeating Tippecanoe 49-39 at Mason Arena.
“I definitely had some thoughts about losing,” said Ferrell, who will continue her career at the University of Akron next season. “At the same time, I didn’t want that to happen. I wasn’t going to let that happen. I still want to play. I still want to go to practice. I’m not ready to be done yet.”
Franklin tallied just nine points in the first half, trailed 31-22 after three quarters and was still down 36-32 in the final four minutes.
The Wildcats (21-4) then reeled off 15 straight points — the first 12 by Ferrell, the last three by Jordan Rogers. By the time the Red Devils (19-6) finally scored again with 28.8 seconds left, they were done.
“Once we got the lead, I just kept shaking my head like, ‘How in the heck did that happen?’ ” Franklin coach John Rossi said. “I do know that Layne took over in the fourth quarter. That’s what Player of the Year-caliber players do. They put the team on their back and lead you to victory, and that’s what she did.”
Rogers had all 10 of her points in the second half for the Wildcats, who will head to Springfield for a 6:15 p.m. regional semifinal Tuesday against Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division rival Valley View (19-7).
Franklin beat the Spartans twice (61-58 and 55-45) during the regular season. Valley View knocked off Roger Bacon 69-58 on Friday night.
“I think that speaks volumes for our league,” Rossi said. “You heard their fans, they said they want Franklin. We’re going to have to do a good job of preparing for them. It’ll be another war.”
The Wildcats conquered Tippecanoe at the foul line. Franklin was 23-of-35 … 19-of-25 in the final period, when Ferrell was 15-of-18 … while the Red Devils were 6-of-12.
Tippecanoe was hit with two technical fouls, one on Ashleigh Mader and one on coach Andy Holderman, during the Wildcats’ decisive 15-point run.
Holderman said he got his technical for saying, “That’s been called a foul all night on the other end.”
“It’s kind of a bum deal. I don’t even know what to say without getting in trouble,” he said. “I’m not going to be bashing anybody, but looking at the free-throw totals, there was a big discrepancy there, and a nine-point lead doesn’t take very long to dissipate when they’re shooting (30) free throws in the second half themselves.
“It is what it is. I told the girls we can only control what we can control and just made it a life lesson. It’s all about character and how you handle yourselves. You don’t want to give anybody a reason to doubt you or think negative of you, and Franklin’s a good team. John does a great job over there.”
Franklin’s offensive efficiency wasn’t very good for the first three periods. The Wildcats managed four field goals and were 1-of-5 from the charity stripe in the first half, yet only trailed 13-9.
“We came in at halftime and were saying we just had to have confidence, that we’ve been in this game before and know how it goes,” Rogers said. “We were just acting like we were scared.”
“I think there were some nerves in our system,” Ferrell said. “We only gave up 13 points in the first half, so our defense was pretty good. We were still in the game, even though it felt like we weren’t.”
In the last quarter, Rossi called for a full-court, man-to-man press to inject some energy into his squad.
“We had to. It was do or die,” he said. “We started looking to run and jump and use our length. We’re not the quickest team out there, but what that did was speed them up.
“They’re real methodical, a very rhythm-type basketball team, and they had the beat going for three quarters. I felt like early in the game, we were a little timid, a little tense. We played right into the way they wanted to play. We had to change that in the fourth quarter.”
That aggressive mind-set carried over to the offensive end. Franklin, usually Ferrell, attacked the rim and often got fouled. The Wildcats were in the double bonus for the last 4:36.
“We knew they had committed seven or eight fouls, so we had to go right at them,” Rossi said. “We wanted to be able to score while the clock’s not moving.”
Ferrell had 13 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and three steals for Franklin, which turned the ball over 14 times (11 in the first half). Kaylee Harris collected four boards and blocked three shots, and Rogers added four rebounds.
The Wildcats only made two 3-pointers, both by Rogers in the third quarter.
“I just couldn’t get in my groove early in the game, and I needed to,” the sophomore point guard said. “We have a great community that comes and supports us, and they’re a big part of our success. When we get them behind us, it helps us a lot out on the court.”
Kendall Clodfelter paced Tippecanoe with 12 points and eight rebounds. Mader marked 11 points, and Brooke Aselage had six points and eight boards.
In Friday’s second game at Mason, Valley View got 24 points and six 3-pointers from Chloe Smith in defeating Bacon (20-5). Abigail Dickson (15), Aubrey Stupp (12) and Claire Henson (11) also scored in double digits.
It’s the third district title in program history for Valley View, but the first since 1987.
“I thought we played some good basketball tonight,” VVHS coach Steve Dickson said. “I thought we had a good game plan of getting the ball inside early to get some girls in foul trouble, and we knew their bench wasn’t very deep. It all paid off for us.
“It all goes back to ball handling and free throws late in the game. Our guards were very good.”
Abigail Dickson and Lauren Legate had four assists apiece for the victorious Spartans. Top scorers for Bacon were Kylee Sheppard (15), Kelly Brenner (14), Lyric Harris (13) and Jasmine Eubanks (13).
Carroll beat McNicholas 47-37 in Friday’s nightcap at Mason.