by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST— Franklin Academy junior Brandon Hanson had 20 points, seven rebounds and four steals and made two key free throws in the closing seconds as the Franklin Academy boys basketball team escaped with a 53-50 win Monday night against visiting Durham Flight.
Hanson also accounted for the Patriots first six points of the game and had a key three point basket in the second quarter, which gave Franklin Academy a four-point lead.
From that point on, while the Patriots never looked back, the game remained close until the final buzzer.
“You have to give credit to Durham Flight’s resolve and perseverance,” said Franklin Academy coach Matt Durkin. “They refused to let us pull away by always making a big shot or getting a stop at just the right time.”
“Additionally, we did not do ourselves any favors by taking three-pointers as opposed to driving the lane or pulling up from inside the arc,” Durkin added. “The coaches have been stressing the importance of learning how to win and making good decisions. Being patient and poised in pressure situations are vital to getting wins and we still have a long way to go until we are at that point.”
Both teams exchanged baskets in the opening quarter but it was Durham Flight which had the edge at 16-15, heading into the second quarter.
A bucket by Devon McCluskey put Franklin Academy out in front at the start of the quarter as Durham Flight turned the ball over on their first three possessions.
The Patriots kept their visitors scoreless for four minutes and scored five points to take a 22-16 lead.
But Durham Flight kept coming and with a pair of treys pulled within four points at 29-25 at the half.
“We played a very clean first half and were able to sustain a couple of runs and not let them pull away either,” Durkin said. “We shared the ball very well and played with an attack mentality.”
“This is how we prefer to play, but we also know that this style of play won’t be possible all the time, so we have to learn how to play a slowed down game too,” Durkin added.
Franklin Academy played one possession at a time, which limited their turnovers in the first half.
“We were able to get up quick shots, but we have to learn to play in the half court,” Durkin said.
Defensively in the second quarter, the Patriots switched up their defensive zone calls, which prove to be effective.
“I think it confused Durham Flight and so they didn’t know what type of offense to run until late in the second quarter,” Durkin said.
A basket by Hanson extended Franklin Academy’s lead to seven at 34-27 in the third quarter but once again Durham Flight answered with a three pointer and then hit two free throws to close the gap at 34-32 with 4:25 left in the quarter.
The Patriots went on to outscore Durham Flight 8-4 and a shot from beyond the arc by Drew Mormann gave the Patriots a 42-36 advantage at the close of the third quarter.
In the last eight minutes, the Patriots made an adjustment to their offense and slowed it down by passing the ball around.
“It may seem strange but I wanted to give our guys a chance to handle the ball, make passes and work as a unit in a pressure filled situation,” Durkin said. “A quick offense is great but an efficient offense is best.”
Andrew Weiss hit a bucket that put Franklin Academy up 48-41with about five minutes remaining in the game. But Durham Flight didn’t settle for that and rallied back to pull within 48-45, forcing Durkin to call a timeout with 3:27 left.
The closest Durham Flight could get after that was one point at 51-50.
Durkin said there were several key factors for his team’s win.
“We shot 64 percent from the free throw line, which is one percent higher than our goal and had 12 assists, which is two more than our goal,” Durkin said. “If we can continue to hit these and our other measurable goals we will win games.”
“I thought we rebounded the ball better on both ends of the floor too,” Durkin added. “We also changed the tempo of the game effectively in the first and second half and our offensive decision making down the stretch was much improved.”
Weiss and Moorman added ten and eight points, respectively for the Patriots.
Franklin Academy, 2-2, had not played a game since November 14 and Durkin said the break was both positive and negative for his team.