TROY – Franklin-Monroe boys basketball trailed by as many as 14 points and 10 heading into the final stanza. The Jets shocked Newton with a 12-2 run in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the game and scored 30 points in the period to claim a sectional title by the score of 58-52 over the Indians.
For three quarters, Newton hit big shots, played solid defense and was in complete control, but in a matter of minutes it all evaporated.
Newton opened up with a big first quarter advantage 16-11 by connecting on three triples – two by junior Kleyson Werhley and one by senior Chet Jamison.
The Indians got another triple from sophomore Michael Montgomery to go up 22-13 early in the second quarter, but the Jets got 5 points from Jackson Crist, including a triple to keep Newton in view trailing 27-19 at the half.
“Newton came out a ball of fire tonight, they were knocking down tough shots and we didn’t want to come out of our zone in that first half,” Franklin-Monroe coach Troy Myers said.
But the Jets wouldn’t have a choice and were forced to go man-to-man in the second half.
Newton tried to spread the floor to give themselves driving lanes and senior Ryan Mollette, who is extremely quick and a great ball-handler, was able to get into the lane for 4 points, and he distributed the ball to Wehrley for 5 points, to help the Indians to a 38-28 lead heading into the final stanza.
Meanwhile, the Indians were doing a phenomenal job of keeping FM’s star player Ethan Conley – the Division IV Southwest District Player of the Year – in check with double teams and constant pressure, but that was about to change.
It all started with a technical foul assessed against an Indians player putting Conley at the free throw line for two points. Then on the ensuing out-of-bounds the Jets ran a set that had sophomore Jackson Crist all alone in the corner. He let a high arching shot fly that was all net and the Jets had closed the gap to 38-33 in a matter of seconds.
Coach Myers had this to say about the shot after the game.
“Jackson has been struggling a bit, the first part of the year he played well, then got sick with mono and missed four games, but in the last game of our regular season, our first game of the tournament and tonight he has showed up. I didn’t want to call that 3, our assistant did, I went with it, but I thought we had the momentum and didn’t need it, but we did have a counter to it underneath with a post entry, he was standing there with nobody within eight feet of him so what you gonna do, and he let it fly.”
Moments later, Connor Crist had a big and-one conversion and Ky Cool hit his only bucket, a 3-pointer, at the 6:04 mark tying the game at 40 and the Jets crowd, cheerleaders and students had the Troy arena rocking.
Minutes later, the Jets extended the lead to 48-40 and Newton didn’t know what hit them. The dramatic turn of events left Coach Myers speechless as well.
“I don’t know if I can articulate well enough to say what happened because it happened so fast. I just think that this game and life will give you opportunities if you have a will and that’s all the fourth quarter was, pure will. We talked to our kids and I didn’t say anything special, those dudes knew this was it,” Myers commented.
The Jets went 14-for-20 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and 24-for-35 in the game and the entire starting five made free throws when it mattered as the Jets held off a furious late Newton rally.
Mollette hit two triples and a layup to cut the lead to 55-52 with 31 seconds to go, but ‘Ky was cool’ at the line late and the Jets held off the Indians 58-52.
“I’m telling you, when you got a freshman who does big things in late game situations and then steps up at the free throw line … we had to make free throws to win this game,” Myers exclaimed.
“Everybody stepped up in the fourth quarter. Ethan and Connor got on the glass, Ky made some big plays late, Jackson had a big shot, and Jordan Rhoades and the rest of the guys made their free throws,” Myers praised.
“So, you have to give our guys a lot of credit. That’s really the best I can say. What an incredible breakthrough,” Myers beamed.
“I know this, we were here three years in a row in the sectional final, and never got past this point and haven’t been here for four years since. One of our assistants (Martin Maksvytis) was on the team and we could never get past this breaking point. For our kids to hang with it and get this win, I’m just incredibly grateful,” Myers concluded.
Ethan Conley led the Jets with 24 points, Connor Crist had 11, Jackson Crist 10, Ky Cool 6, Jordan Rhoades 5 and Luke Booher 2 for Franklin-Monroe which improves to 15-9 on the year.
The Jets will play Jackson Center for a district title at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 8 at the University of Dayton Arena.
Score by quarters
Newton – Mollette 2-4-5/8 – 19, Whittaker, 0-1-0/0 – 2, Jamison 1-4-0/0 – 11, Montgomery 1-0-0/0 – 3, Wehrley 3-1-2/3 – 13, Hildebrand 0-2-0/0 – 4. Totals 7-12-7/11 – 52.
Franklin-Monroe – Cool 1-0-3/4 – 6, Rhoades 0-0-5/8 – 5, C. Crist 0-3-5/7 – 11, Booher 0-1-0/0 – 2, J. Crist 2-1-2/4 – 10, Conley 0-7-10/12 – 24. Totals 3-12-24/35 – 58.
3-pointers – Newton 7 (Werhley 3, Mollette 2, Jamison 1, Montgomery 1), Franklin-Monroe 3 (J. Crist 2, Cool 1).