By Carey Phillips
Franklin held off Smoky Mountain 45-43 in a Mountain Seven Conference women’s basketball game Friday at Franklin.
Tori Ensley scored 14 points for the Lady Panthers.
Triniti Littlejohn scored 16 of her 17 points in the second half for the Lady Mustangs (7-6, 2-2).
It was a game of missed opportunities for SM, including going just three of 16 from the foul line.
“We had many opportunities to ice that game,” Coach Ollin Dunford said. “We have got to stop letting free throws be our Achilles heel. It has been the last three or four losses. We had some turnovers that weren’t forced, but it still came down to we couldn’t hit free throws. It’s something we’ve got to improve on.”
The team also had trouble shooting from the floor and scored just two points in the second quarter.
“We rushed our shots,” Dunford said. “We shoot a lot of threes, but I feel good about the ones I allow to shoot those threes consistently. Our offense has a lot to do with the open shooter, and we have a powerhouse rebounder who can clean that up.”
He was referring to Greenlee Flynn, who had 13 rebounds. Macy Wike added 11.
There were five lead changes in the first period. Wike scored with seven seconds left putting the Lady Mustangs up 14-12.
The Lady Mustangs failed to score again until 34 seconds remained in the half.
Franklin managed just seven points in the second quarter and led 19-16 at halftime.
SM finished the third period on a 10-2 spurt, including five by Littlejohn, for a 29-28 edge.
Sydney Williams’ basket with 6:56 left in the game gave the Lady Panthers the lead for good at 30-29.
They extended the margin to 43-36 on Ensley’s three-pointer at the 2:29 mark.
Littlejohn hit a pair of three-pointers, and Vivian Bell made one of two foul shots cutting the gap to 45-43 with 51 seconds on the clock.
Neither team scored the rest of the game.
Four of Littlejohn’s six field goals were three-pointers, and she made a free throw.
“I played her the whole game,” Dunford said. “She knew how important it was to suck it up. This game meant a lot. I saw her dig down, and she went to work. She found that second wind.”
Wike added nine points, Kennedy Stewman followed with eight, Flynn scored four, Aiden Nicholson and Ali Fortner both had two, and Bell made a free throw.
The Lady Mustang JVs failed to score in the first period and lost 48-24 to fall to 6-4 on the season. Franklin led at quarter breaks by scores of 6-0, 23-11 and 31-19.
SM’s Laci Frizzell had eight points.
“Coming into the game, I was worried how we would handle their pressure, and overall I thought we did really well,” Coach Jason Melvin said. “We played hard on both sides of the ball. I would have liked to see us attack the basket more, and we struggled to get some rebounds which led to easy second chance points for Franklin. It did hurt us that we didn’t get to practice the day before because of the weather, but we knew the things we needed to do in order to win.”