For the Franklin High School girls basketball team, the key word is composure.
The Warriors’ composure was certainly tested early on Thursday night against hot-shooting Bridgewater-Raritan. But as the Panthers went cold from the field, Franklin ramped up the defensive pressure and battled back, earning a 49-47 victory.
The Warriors didn’t take their first lead until the 5:15 mark of the third quarter, as they spent the majority of the first half battling back from a 13-point hole. In the decisive third quarter, Franklin (9-1) out-scored Bridgewater-Raritan 16-9, thanks in large part to the back-court duo of Alexandra Jackson and Tahirah Scott, who combined for nine points in the stanza.
“This is a good win for us. Our key word has always been and will continue to be for the rest of the season is composure,” Franklin head coach Audrey Taylor said. “We have to maintain composure, stick to what we know and what we do well and that’s how we are successful.”
Jackson, who finished with eight points in the game, put Franklin on top 28-27 with a short jumper, but Bridgewater-Raritan (7-3) didn’t go quietly. The two teams traded the lead seven times in the third quarter, the final time coming as the buzzer sounded when Amyia Rankins converted a layup to put Franklin up 38-36.
In the opening minutes of the fourth, Franklin used a 7-2 run to give itself a little breathing room. Adreana Miller spurred the run with a free throw, a layup and an assist, en route to 16 points and eight rebounds.
“My key was to get some rebounds and get myself some easy looks,” Miller said. “We knew that if we made stops, we could get the offense going.”
Bridgewater-Raritan shot 8-18 in the second half, but couldn’t stop Miller and the Franklin offense when it needed to, as the Warriors scored 28 points in the final 16 minutes on 10-27 shooting. Miller iced the game with a pair of free throws with 12.4 seconds remaining, as she went 6-8 from the line for the night.
But the Panthers really forced Franklin’s hand in this one, jumping out to a 21-8 first quarter lead thanks to the 3-point shooting of Julia Venturelli and Sarah Brophy. The pair hit 5-7 from behind the arc in the opening eight minutes, with Venturelli connecting on 3-4. She finished with a team-best 16 points, but only five after the first quarter.
“The emphasis is always on defense. I’m a defensive coach and we can’t win games unless we make stops,” Taylor said. “The way we were playing in that first quarter, there were too many open jump shots for Bridgewater; credit them for the way they came out; they were hustling and they came out and wanted it. We just had to get on the same page. We had to maintain our composure and we had to match their energy.”
Rankins turned into a force in the middle for the Warriors in the second half, scoring four of her 10 points and pulling down five offensive rebounds. Franklin out-rebounded Bridgewater-Raritan 38-16, with Jaeda Wildgoose’s 10 leading the way.
“We’re better when we’re in transition; that’s our game and that’s our style. But it all starts with defense, so when we get those stops, we can push and get some open looks,” Taylor said.
Mary Kronenwetter finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for Bridgewater-Raritan, including a 3-pointer as time expired in the fourth quarter. After her hot start, Brophy added just three more points for the Panthers.