DAYTON, Ohio – Franklin coach Brian Bales knew there was nothing he could say – so he didn’t try.
Bales had just watched his Wildcats, ranked No. 18 in the Super 25, give up a 13-point third-quarter lead and lose, 77-76, in overtime to Dayton Dunbar in the Division II regional final on Saturday at University of Dayton Arena.
“Nothing,” Bales said when asked what he told his team. “They’re pretty tore up. We’ve had a lot of tough losses, but I’ve never seen this group beat up like this. It was right there. We could taste it. They’re hurting.”
Wolverines sophomore Chris Jackson swished a 3-pointer from the left corner with eight seconds left to tie the score at 69 and force overtime. Franklin senior Luke Kennard, who scored 41 points to reach second place on Ohio boys’ basketball’s career scoring list, accounted for all seven of the Wildcats’ overtime points, but his only miss in 12 free throws opened the door for Dunbar senior A.J. Harris’s free throw with 2.4 seconds left to win the game.
Kennard missed a contested desperation 30-footer at the buzzer, then chased the officials to the edge of the floor to, he said, complain about the foul that sent Harris to the line. He didn’t think he was fouled on the final shot of his high school career.
“I didn’t feel anything,” said Kennard, who sank four 3-pointers on his way to finishing his career with 2,977 points, second to the 3,208 piled up by Jon Diebler from 2003 through 2007 for Fostoria and Upper Sandusky, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Senior Evan Crowe scored 17 points and classmate Jake Riddell finished with 10, all in the second half, for Franklin (26-2), which saw its overall win streak snapped at 18 games and its UD Arena post-season streak stopped at five.
The Wildcats grabbed a 41-28 lead on a Kennard 3-pointer with 4:56 left in the third quarter and still led by 10, 58-48, on a Riddell 3-pointer from the left corner with 5:40 left in regulation.
“We played pretty good,” Kennard said. “We just couldn’t pull it off. They hit some pretty shots. It didn’t come out the way we wanted.”
The official statistics showed Dunbar with leads of 31-0 on fast-break points and 25-0 in bench scoring. The Wolverines outrebounded Franklin, 25-15, in the second half and 37-31 in the game.
Kennard, who went into the game needing 23 points to pass Jay Burson (New Concord John Glenn, 1981-1985) for second place on Ohio’s career scoring list, sank three 3-pointers and scored 19 in the first half to lead Franklin to a 26-22 halftime lead.
Franklin won boys’ sectional and district championships for the first time in school history on the way to the regional final.
“It was a great ride,” Kennard said. “We’ve done some things at Franklin that haven’t been accomplished before. We have nothing to hang our heads about.”