You need mental toughness to come from 14 down at Franklin when the Rebels are hitting shots, and Tre Carlton and Centennial had it on Friday.
Carlton poured in 24 points, while Dusty Williams and Asharri Haynesworth added 15 each, as the Cougars dodged a 35-point performance from Reese Glover in a 79-73 triumph.
Evan Sigler added a dozen for Franklin, while Jack Patton had 10.
The Rebels fell despite hitting 18 3-pointers. Franklin rode its star point guard to get that lead, with Glover hitting nine of those long-distance shots.
But the Cougars’ defense kept him from delivering a victory in the end.
“Our guys played tough,” Centennial coach Pete Froedden said. “They played tough tonight. And they found their toughness in the moment. When we get down 14, we had a chance to relax and give in, and we didn’t do that.
“And then we found ourselves back in the game, and we found enough toughness to get over the hump. Then to have enough toughness to hold them off a couple of times was big.”
It didn’t look good for the Cougars early the third quarter when Glover buried a long 3 from the left side to put Franklin up, 50-36.
Nor did Centennial fans feel particularly encouraged when Glover threw a long pass to Matt Thurman for a lay-up that gave the Rebels a 63-55 advantage moments into the fourth quarter.
But it didn’t take long for the Cougars to turn that deficit into an eight-point lead.
“We just had to keep fighting, and see the results at the end,” Carlton said. “That’s all you can do.”
Centennial connected on 11 3-pointers of its own. It was one that Williams hit from the right corner, just after Thurman’s lay-up early in the fourth quarter that started the comeback.
Haynesworth and Carlton followed with a pair of free throws each. Then, Williams assisted Carlton’s 3 with 3:07 left for Centennial’s first lead since a brief, one-point advantage in the second quarter.
Carlton buried another 3 about a half-minute later. Hayden Pearson hit both ends of a one-and-one, and Williams hit one shot of a double-bonus with 1:26 left.
The only Rebel answer in that spell was Glover’s contested 3 from the right side with 4:51 remaining.
By the time Glover broke Centennial’s 19-3 run with a 3 from the left side, the Cougars led 74-69 with under a minute and a half left, and Franklin never got closer than three again.
“Give (Franklin) a lot of credit,” Froedden said. “What a great high school basketball environment. You couldn’t ask for anything more. Both sets of fans were tremendous. We needed to get one like this. We’re fairly young, and for us to find our toughness, then, believe we can come into an environment like this, fight through adversity, and get over the hump, was big for us.”
Haynesworth gave the Cougars their only lead of the first half at 25-24 with a 3 from the left side off a kick-out.
But that was short-lived. The Rebels answered with a pair of Glover 3s, then one from Sigler, for an eight-point Rebel advantage.
Centennial’s Carlton responded with a 3, but Glover hit another.
Carlton punched back with a three-point play off a tough drive and bank to the left, and a free throw, with 44 seconds left in the half.
With the defense drawn Glover’s way as he penetrated to the right corner, the Rebel point guard skipped the ball across the floor to a teammate, who found Patton in the right corner.
Patton beat the buzzer and buried an open look, and the Rebels led 39-31 at half.
Franklin hit 11 3-pointers in the first half.
Carlton had 13 at half, and Glover, 19.
Defense contains Glover in the end
Glover is a tough cover for anyone. Franklin’s point guard can deliver off a feed from a teammate, or off the dribble on his own.
The Cougars knew exactly who Franklin would turn to in the end. They knew they had to avoid fouling Glover, who has a knack for leaning in and drawing contact.
And Centennial executed that almost flawlessly when it mattered most. It held Glover to 1-of-7 shooting in the final two minutes, and didn’t put him on the foul line during that spell.
There was good reason for it: the looks Glover was getting were highly contested ones.
“Our focus was on him mostly,” Carlton said. “If we stopped him, he had to use the rest of his team to help him win. That wasn’t good enough tonight.”
Frodden appreciated the significance of what the Cougars did at the end.
“We guarded our hearts out, and just can’t hardly stop them,” he said. “Glover’s a special offensive player, and he probably wore down a little bit, too. He’s got to make some unbelievable shots–and he does that–to get them back in it.”