Within two days last weekend, Franklin Road Academy experienced the high mark in basketball school history with two sectional victories.
They topped that in two hours Thursday.
The Panther’ girls and boys teams each scored impressive victories in their DII-A state semifinal contests at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena and both lassoed trips into Saturday’s championship games.
A stifling defense lifted the FRA boys to an impressive 60-49 win over Jackson Christian in the first boys semifinal. A scrambling all-out FRA defense limited Christian to just 31 percent shooting (16-of-52). Rarely did the Eagles get a good open look.
That followed the FRA girls, who made a second straight trip to finals, thanks to a 51-33 win over Harding Academy. Much like the boys, they shut down Harding with a defense that allowed just 30 percent (10-of-33) shooting.
• For the boys, Bud Cannon poured in a game-high 24 points and rugged Kessler Bell came off the bench to add 19 for FRA (27-6) which rolls into Saturday’s 1 p.m. final against Evangelical Christian School.
Leading 25-15 at the half, the Panthers stretched the lead to as much as 17 (50-33) when Connor Maitland made a steal and layup midway through the third quarter.
Three times, including twice in 30 seconds after a Christian score, Cannon beat the defense back and scored on a long pass from guard Maitland, which canceled out the Eagles’ basket.
“Lots of times a team will get hyped up after scoring a basket and celebrate and we’ll beat them down the court for a score,” Cannon said. “Connor is the quarterback in football, so you know you’ll get a good pass.
“This is the first time FRA has been to the finals, and to win it Saturday would be awesome.”
The massive 6-foot-3, 238-pound Bell had the misfortune of missing his freshman season with a broken foot, but he’s back in force this year.
“They were beating us up in the first half, and at halftime we said we had to box out better,” Bell said. “It would be awesome if we can get that big gold ball Saturday.”
Forward Rob Marberry grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and added seven points for FRA.
“We had to do a better job on both the offensive and defensive boards,” Marberry said. “Coach (John) Pierce has had one message for us all season, and that’s ‘execute’ and I think we did that [Thursday].”
Daniel Sears scored a game-high 20 for Jackson Christian (22-8), a team which beat regular season region champ Donelson Christian 59-45 in the sectional Saturday.
“We did a very good job defensively, and we rebounded better in the second half,” Pierce said. “Bud had maybe his best shooting game of the season (8-of-12).”
FRA and ECS have not played each other this season. ECS beat Ezell-Harding 75-57.
• In the girls game, FRA jumped out to a 7-1, then watched as Harding fought back to lead 16-11. The Panthers finally took over and rolled to a 51-33 victory.
Abby Wharton’s baseline hoop gave them the lead for good at 17-16 and started a 14-4 run.
Mariah Canady led FRA (26-3) with 18 points. Wharton added 15, and Miss Basketball finalist Derica Wyatt had 11. Thanks to Erin Ford’s 10 rebounds, the Panthers finished with a 29-20 rebound advantage.
“Defense is where it starts,” Canady said. “And having Erin in there, that really helps us with rebounds.”
With the clock running down in the third quarter, Wharton forced up a 3-pointer, which swished in at the buzzer, good for a 38-25 lead with one quarter remaining.
“The clock was winding down, and I had to get a shot up,” Wharton said. “I don’t normally shoot 3s, and I was surprised that went in.”
“We tried to key on their two scorers [Miss Basketball finalist Kaylah Keys] and [Kiana Christy] and hoped to wear them down,” coach Chris Hart said. “We gave up too many second shots early on. But when Abby threw that 3 in at the end of the third quarter, that gave us momentum.”
FRA will face Knox Webb in the finals – the third meeting between the teams this season.
Webb beat FRA during he regular season, but the Panthers avenged that with a win in the region finals.
• Overton takes 6-AAA title: Tournament most valuable player Mookie Betts poured in a career high 29 points as Overton won its first region championship since 1995 with a 66-45 win over host Brentwood High in the boys Region 6-AAA finals.
“It’s great that we’ve realized our goal and it’s big that we get to have a home game [for sectionals],” Betts, who hit four 3-pointers and had five assists and three steals, said. “Our defense and our entire game was good all the way around.”
Overton (29-7) has won 11 straight (its last loss was Jan. 22), and hosts Clarksville in AAA sectionals Monday. Brentwood visits West Creek.
Cameron Lewis had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Frank Lobasco added 11 points and 14 rebounds. Lobasco also sustained a slight ankle sprain and was helped from the floor.
Guard Jack Montague (16 points) led Brentwood, which visits West Creek on Monday.
“You’ve got a chance to win every time out when you have [Betts] on your side,” Overton coach James McKee said. “He’ll pass up a layup to get the ball to a teammate.”
(at Brentwood High)
Hunters Lane 34, Ravenwood 32, girls final.
Overton 66, Brentwood High 45, boys final.
(at Vol State, Gallatin)
Macon County 52, Lipscomb 42, girls final.
Sycamore 54, East Lit 51, boys final.
Girls Sectionals Saturday
Wilson Central at Hunters Lane
Ravenwood at Clarksville
Lipscomb at Lewis County
Waverly at Macon County
Boys Sectionals Monday
Clarksville at Overton
Brentwood at West Creek
East Lit at Marshall County
Giles County at Sycamore
DII-A State tournament
(at Allen Arena)
FRA 51, Harding Academy 33, girls; FRA 60, Jackson Christian 49, boys; Webb 53, Fayette Academy 47, girls; ECS 75, Ezell-Harding 57, boys.
11 a.m.—FRA vs. Webb, girls finals; 1 p.m.—FRA vs. ECS, boys finals.
DII-AA State tournament
(at Allen Arena)
2 p.m.—GPS vs. St. Benedict, girls; 3:30—McCallie vs. Briarcrest, boys; 5:15—Ensworth vs. Briarcrest, girls; 6:45—Ensworth vs. MBA, boys.
3 p.m. Girls finals; 5 p.m.—Boys finals.