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Bears give Franklin first win

POSTED December 14, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                                             Bears give Franklin first win

             WASHINGTON, Conn. – The chant from the small but enthusiastic Thomaston High student rooting section was loud, proud and quick in coming – “Mr. Franklin, Mr Franklin, Mr. Franklin.”

            It was a memorable snippet of a memorable night and worthy of the first-year coach posting his first victory.  Franklin’s Bears produced the best of welcoming presents as they rallied from a slow start for a 54-45 victory over Shepaug Valley Wednesday night.

            Any victory would have been sweet but just to add an extra measure of satisfaction to the night not only did the Bears win, but they did it after looking like they were going to be run out of the Shepaug gym, spotting the Spartans a quick, 10-0 lead in the first three minutes.

            “It feels really good,” said Franklin. “I was concerned. We fell behind by 10 points which has been consistent with these guys but then we went on a 13-point run. These guys have been resilient. We got off to a rough start but came back.”  

            It was all nothing a lot of defense wouldn’t cure and the Bears had that in good supply. After years of opting to play zone, there is more of an in-your-face attitude this season with the emphasis on man-to-man and the early indications are that the potential is there for the defense to be a solid weapon.

Shepaug began to turn the ball over with consistency and finished with 24 for the game. More than enough for Thomaston to get back in the game and pull ahead.

Senior guard Chad Pierce (12 points)  drained a three-pointer for Thomaston’s first points of the game and the Bears proceeded to go on a 15-2 run to take a 15-12 lead after the first period. Drew Gagne (14 points) added his own three-pointer, a foul shot and fall away 17-footer at the buzzer to highlight the surge.  Shepaug would commit eight turnovers in the period.

“We just said we have to keep working,” said Pierce. “We knew we could do it and once we got going we would be fine."

 Shepaug never really recovered its offensive touch. Pierce hit a couple of free throws, Gagne another three-pointer and Pat O’Neill two from the line to start the second quarter and stretch the lead to 22-12, making it a 20-2 run.

(The first baskets) came real easy early. We had some open looks,” said Shepaug coach Matt Perachi.  “Then they ramped up their pressure and and we had a lot of difficulty. We committed turnovers at an alarming rate. Twenty-four turnovers is 24 extra possessions for them. Their guards did a really good job of pressuring the ball and we tried to do too much too many times against them.’

The Bears made sure the third quarter did not match the opening of the game when they came out and scored the first six points turning a 28-21 halftime edge into a 34-21 lead.

Shepaug would get no closer than seven points the rest of the game, 36-29. Every time the Spartans threatened a turnover, missed shot or some Thomaston poise would take over.

The Bears were never able put the Spartans away, leaving a nervous edge to the game. But, they managed to make enough foul shots (18-27) to keep the lead around 10 points most of the fourth quarter.

Franklin liked a lot of things in his debut including the balanced scoring with Ken Benoit joining Gagne and Pierce in double figures with 11 points respectively. He also liked his backcourt duo of Benoit, who did not play a year ago, and Pierce.

“Ken Benoit was huge tonight. I like our veteran backcourt,” said Franklin. “They were poised, aware of the time and situations. They are like coaches on the court.”

As for the defense, he liked part and he didn’t like part.

‘Our man-to-man was pretty good but we have to learn how to play tough in-your-face without fouling. The more comfortable we are playing it, the better we’ll be at it.”

Shepaug received a nice effort from Lucas Guliano who tossed in 16 points and Kellen Rikhoff who added 11. But, Perachi knows there is room to get better.

“We missed a million shots in the paint, we didn’t finish,” said Perachi. “We have to improve dealing with the press. Show more composure. But, give Thomaston credit, they didn’t lose their composure.”

No the Bears didn’t. And you can bet the new coach will remember his first win.

                                             THOMASTON 54, SHEPAUG 45

Thomaston (1-0): Owen McMahon 2 1 5, Ryan Hurlbert 1 0 2, Pat O’Neill 2 3 7, Chad Pierce 3 5 12, Ken Benoit 3 5 11, Drew Gagne 4 3 13, Alex Gagne 1 1 3, Kyle Guisto 0 0 0, John Kelly 0 0 0, Totals 16 19 54

Shepaug (0-1): Eddie Kelly 1 2 4, Cody Brennan 1 0 2, Brian Hungerford 2 0 5, Lucas Guliano 7 2 16, Dylan McAward 2 2 6, Kellen Rikhoff 5 1 11, Mike Anson 0 1 1, totals 18 8 45.

Thomaston      15 13 10 16—54

Shepaug          12   9    8 16—45

3-point goals: T – Pierce 1, D. Gagne 3; S – Hungerford 1.  

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