ONEONTA — Franklin’s girls had a shot, which didn’t seem remotely possible with less than two minutes to play.
“We knew we had a final push,” said third-year Franklin coach Mike Dutcher, whose first-time Section Four basketball champions nearly went from down-and-out to Class D state semifinalist before falling, 51-46, to Oriskany on Saturday at Oneonta State.
Section Three champion Oriskany (22-0) took a 47-36 lead when Brandi Zizzi sank the last of her four three-point field goals with 3 minutes, 45 seconds left in the Class D state quarterfinal, which drew a near-capacity crowd to Dewar Arena. The Redskins maintained that cushion until Beers drifted off a screen for a three-pointer from the left diagonal with 1:28 remaining.
That sparked a 10-1 Franklin run fueled by two Oriskany turnovers, three defensive rebounds off missed free throws and seven of Beers’ game-high 30 points. Marisa Cawley ended the spurt by making the second free throw of a two-shot foul, pulling the Purple Devils (20-1) to 48-46 with 25.2 seconds left.
“To battle back like that and have a chance to tie the game, just credit the girls’ toughness and perseverance and just a never-die attitude in them,” said Dutcher, whose team never led but never gave up, even after falling behind by 14 points midway through the second quarter and again at the start of the third quarter.
Those rallies paled in comparison to the fourth-quarter charge, though.
“They’re a great team and we knew our lead wasn’t going to last unless we kept up the intensity,” Redskins senior center Christina Graziadei said. “I expected it was going to be a close game at the end.”
It couldn’t have gotten much closer, especially after Graziadei missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with 22.6 seconds left. Franklin senior forward Haley Downin rebounded the miss and got the ball to Beers, who trotted up the center of the court before breaking hard to the right side.