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Boys Basketball: Franklin Tech earns share of league title with win over Duggan

Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2020 10:08:10 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Tim Artus has seen his Franklin Tech boys basketball team grow and mature throughout the course of the winter.

In their biggest game of the season Monday night, the Eagles passed one more test. The result was the program’s first league title in four years.

Franklin Tech overcame a five-point, fourth-quarter deficit, riding the play of seniors Garret Cole and Bailey Young, and closed out the evening on a 17-7 run to upend visiting Duggan Academy, 54-51. The result enabled the Eagles to capture a share of the Tri-County League North Division regular-season title.

The Jayhawks (16-4, 6-2) held a one-game lead in the TCL North entering Monday’s meeting. The win enabled the Eagles to share the title at 6-2 in league play, and they improved to 14-6 overall to cap a standout regular season that results in a banner for the first time since the 2015-16 campaign.

“Honestly, we set this as a goal for ourselves six games ago,” began Artus of the league title. “At that point, we had a list of goals and this was one of them. It’s taken more than just this game to get there, but we knew if we gave ourselves the chance, and had the opportunity to play in this spot, we could get the job done. This team has been building its confidence game after game.”

Franklin Tech, which has won 11 of 13 games entering the postseason, dropped a 71-58 decision against Duggan when the teams met the first time around on Jan. 24 in Springfield.

“They trusted each other and that’s something we’ve worked on all season,” Artus said of his club. “They trusted that everyone would do what they had to do with the game on the line.”

Trailing 44-39 entering the fourth quarter, the Eagles dug deep on the defensive end to claw back in the game. Duggan was held off the scoreboard for the first six minutes and 15 seconds of the final period, and the hosts capitalized offensively to chip away and eventually regain the lead. Cole scored six straight points, and his pull-up jumper along the baseline with 2:30 remaining gave Tech a 45-44 advantage.

Young followed with a steal and a layup of his own just seconds later to make it 47-44, and he later put home a basket in traffic with 1:25 remaining to keep the Eagles out in front.

Cole hit two big free throws in a one-point game with 30 seconds remaining, and after Duggan’s Hussein Kabir drained a 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left to cut the deficit to 52-51, the senior big man again came through with a pair from the charity stripe with five seconds to go. Tafari Reid’s 3 at the buzzer came up short and the Eagles held on for the big 54-51 victory.

“We came to a point where we made a choice,” began Artus of his team’s fourth-quarter effort. “We made the choice not to play like individuals, as we had up until that point, and decided to do all the team things that had gotten us to this point in the season. I give them a lot of credit. They played as a team.”

Cole finished with 24 points, 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter, and he pulled down 12 rebounds, dished out six assists and totaled four blocks in an impressive all-around effort. Young totaled 17 points to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Justin Littlewood came through with six points, nine rebounds and two steals.

Artus also lauded the likes of Hunter Wozniak, who played stout defense on Kabir for much of the night, and Ryan Artus, who sank an important corner 3-pointer in the third quarter to jumpstart a stagnant Franklin Tech offense.

“Up and down the roster, kids have not only accepted their roles but starred and grown in their roles,” Artus explained. “There’s a willingness to do what it takes on this team to win. That’s a common theme throughout the roster.”

It was a physical, back-and-forth affair for most of the night. The Eagles started the game on an 8-0 run, and Kabir picked up his third foul with 1:45 left in the first quarter. The Duggan star sat the rest of the first half, though the Jayhawks rallied without him and used a 17-4 run in the second quarter to take a 30-23 advantage with 2:45 to go.

The Eagles rallied late, scoring the final seven points of the half to tie the game at 30 heading into the break.

Duggan led for the majority of the third quarter, growing the advantage to as many as seven points when it took a 42-35 lead. But again, Franklin Tech had an answer, and the hosts saved their best for the final eight minutes when they locked down defensively and made enough plays on the other end to earn a league title.

“We have played to our potential, and in some cases, played above it,” said Artus of his team’s hot run of play down the stretch of the season.

While a spot in the Western Mass. Division 4 tournament awaits, the team will first learn its fate in the State Vocational Tournament, where a home game in the semifinal round was the desired outcome when brackets are announced either Tuesday or Wednesday. Seeds for the WMass tournament will be released on Saturday.

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