ANSONIA – Early in the third quarter Franklin-Monroe appeared to be headed to its fourth win of the season as the Jets were leading host Ansonia by 13 points.
But the Tigers weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet and they whittled away at Franklin-Monroe’s lead in the remainder of the third period, and then exploded for a huge 28-point outburst in the fourth quarter to come all the way back for a 77-67 victory.
“That was exciting,” Ansonia coach Devin Limburg said. “The boys came ready to play and they stuck to the game plan. I told them even when we got down in the second half when they jumped up on us in the third that we needed to stay composed and come right back at them. That’s what it takes.”
At least part of what it took was the Tigers going a perfect 10-for-10 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter after connecting on just 3 of 7 in the other three quarters combined. Senior Hunter Muir and junior Hunter Buckingham were a huge part of Ansonia’s second half fuel with Muir scoring 17 of his 19 total points in the second half including going 4-for-4 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Buckingham only totaled 8 points on the night, but six of those came on a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that helped the Tigers cut into the FM lead.
“(Hunter) Muir was big in the second half and lot of that was from (Andrew) Rowland drawing the double team,” Limburg said. “Muir was able to gets some easy putback buckets and I think that really got him going a bit.”
While Muir and Buckingham were practically silent in the first half, Matthew Shook and Andrew Rowland provided a spark for the Tigers keeping them close to the visiting Jets. Shook led all Ansonia players with 20 points – 14 of those in the first two frames. Rowland was a steady presence all night long with 18 points spread out across all four periods. He also was a strong force rebounding underneath the basket.
“Andrew is just a monster in there,” Limburg said. “He gets double and triple teamed and he is still making shots. (Matthew) Shook did what he does and we had a lot of contributions off the bench tonight. Everybody is filling their role and finding buckets because they are moving the ball around well as a team.”
Franklin-Monroe senior Ethan Conley earned a game-high 33 points – he is averaging 32 per game – as multiple defenders surrounded him for much of the game. For the game, Conley hit 8 field goals including four of the 3-point variety and he was 13-of-17 at the free throw line. He scored 20 of his points in the first half leading his team to a 40-32 lead at the break, but the Ansonia defense clamped down on him harder in the second half holding him to 13 points while the Tigers staged their comeback.
“Conley is a great player first off,” Limburg said. “We did everything we could to try and slow him down. He is a tough man to slow down, but I think a lot of his points in the first half were on transition so we just talked about slowing him down in transition because he was killing us. In the half court I thought we were OK, but it was hard for us to send enough guys back to stop him. He is just a phenomenal player.”
Franklin-Monroe coach Troy Myers said with two minutes left in the game, the decision was made to foul the Ansonia player(s) they thought would miss a free throw. He knew coming into the game the Tigers hadn’t shot well from the line their previous two games, but on this night it was quite the opposite result with Ansonia hitting all 10 free throws in the fourth period.
“If I’m not mistaken they were 9 of 19 last Saturday against Houston and they were something like 12 of 28 the previous game,” Myers said. “So with two minutes to go we make the decision we are going put who we think will miss a free throw on the line and they just consistently buried them from that point on.
“But the game wasn’t lost there,” he continued. “The game was lost on our defensive end with the lack of effort on the glass. I don’t know the official numbers because I think ours are wrong, but they killed us on the glass. That’s the bottom line. When you have a youthful, inexperienced team like we have at some point there has to be something that clicks in your mind that this is the level of play we have to play at and we didn’t do it tonight.”
Also scoring in double figures for FM was Jordan Rhoades with 15 points and Connor Crist with 10. For Ansonia, Shook (20), Muir (19) and Rowland (18) were the only ones to reach double digits.
With the loss, Franklin-Monroe falls to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the Cross County Conference. Ansonia improves to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference.
Both teams are back at it on the road on Saturday night. Franklin-Monroe will travel to Union City (Ind.) and Ansonia head up to Fort Recovery.
Score by quarters
Franklin-Monroe – Gage Vance 1 0 3, Jordan Rhoades 7 1 15, Connor Crist 5 0 10, Luke Booher 1 1 3, Jackson Crist 1 1 3, Ethan Conley 8 13 33. Totals: 23 16 67.
Ansonia – Matthew Farrier 0 1 1, Reece Stammen 2 0 5, Hunter Buckingham 3 0 8, Matthew Shook 7 4 20, Hunter Muir 7 4 19, Payton Setser 3 0 6, Andrew Rowland 7 4 18. Totals: 29 13 77.
3-pointers: Franklin-Monroe 5 (Conley 4, Vance), Ansonia 6 (Buckingham 2, Shook 2, Muir, Stammen)
Records: Franklin-Monroe (3-3, 2-2 CCC), Ansonia (3-2, 3-1 CCC)
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.