By Carey Phillips
Smoky Mountain pulled away in the final two minutes to defeat Franklin 58-46 in Mountain Six Conference men’s basketball action Jan. 21 at the SM gym.
Mitch Wike led a balanced scoring attack for the Mustangs with 12 points. Clayton Frady and Parker Flynn both finished with 11, and Zeb Sink had 10.
Franklin’s Griffin Green scored 13 points.
“It was a huge win,” Coach Adam Phillips said. “I’m very proud of our kids. Every time they hit a big shot we had an answer. Defensively, we did a great job taking charges. We dominated them on the glass, and we got stops when we needed to.”
He said the team was 12 of 14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
“It was a great night and a great atmosphere,” Phillips added.
Beating a rival is always important, and it was especially so with SM remaining undefeated in the conference.
“We blew a big lead against them last year,” Michael Todd said. “It means a whole lot to beat them. We were hitting shots then we went on a cold streak for a little bit. We gave up a couple of opportunities, but we really came together as a team at the end like we have all season. Defense and controlling the pace on offense were big for us.”
The Panthers never led after the first quarter, but they tied it 43-43 when Wyatt Gibson made one of two foul shots with 5:41 left in the game.
Wike’s three-pointer at the 5:25 mark put the Mustangs ahead to stay, 46-43.
Franklin was down 48-46 following Green’s two foul shots with 2:29 on the clock but failed to score again.
Flynn hit two free throws with 1:41 remaining. That started a game-closing 10-0 run, including four by Todd.
SM never trailed after finishing the first period on a 10-2 spurt, including four by Todd, to lead 17-10.
Flynn scored six straight points as the margin reached 26-13 with 4:11 to play in the half.
Green and Trey Woodard both scored five as the Panthers ended the half on a 10-3 run cutting the gap to 29-23.
They kept the pressure on in the third period, which ended with the Mustangs leading 41-40.
All three of Wike’s field goals were treys, and he hit three foul shots. Frady made three field goals, including a three-pointer, and was four of four from the line. Flynn had three field goals and five free throws. Sink scored all his points from the floor.
Todd finished with eight points, and Conner Seagraves had six.
Franklin won the JV game 59-46. SM led 14-10 after the first quarter but trailed 31-25 at halftime and 41-34 through three periods.
Matt Brown scored 21 points, and Vaughn Ellis had 14.
“Franklin has a very good team,” Coach Tyler Mulligan said. “I think we played really hard at times. We had a few more turnovers than we would like, and some shots didn’t go our way. We’re on a tough losing streak right now so we’ve got to bounce back.”