A few missed opportunities proved to be the difference between the Franklin Admirals claiming a second regional championship within the past three seasons.
The hosting Admirals twice had the Cane Ridge Ravens on the brink but couldn’t close the show, falling just short in a 75-71 thriller of a Region 6-AAA championship game Thursday evening at Franklin High School.
Heavily recruited Ravens senior and Brandon Miller scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter to preserve the win and perfect season for Cane Ridge. Seniors Reed Kemp and Connor Beavon scored 19 points apiece for the Admirals, while all-tournament entrant Matt Thurman added 15 points.
The bulk of the game was a close affair, save for a rough stretch midway through the opening quarter. Franklin made a concentrated effort to contain Miller, though failing to capitalize on the offensive end.
A series of forced shots led to several fast break opportunities for Cane Ridge, who went on an 11-0 run to enjoy a 16-5 lead midway through the first quarter. A late surge by the Admirals resulted in a 7-0 run to pull within four at 16-12 after eight minutes of play.
Franklin found its groove in the second quarter, namely behind the hot hand of Beavon who found his stroke from beyond the arc. The high-motored senior went deep on three straight possessions in engineering an 11-2 run for the Admirals who enjoyed their first lead of the night.
Miller sank a three to stop the bleeding, followed by a layup from senior Chris Hillsman (12 points) to put Cane Ridge back ahead by three. Beavon immediately responded, igniting a 5-0 run by the Admirals lead 30-27. Cane Ridge scored the final three points of the half, including a jumper by Ja’Lynn Lawrence (5 points) to tie the game at 30-30 heading into the half.
The inability to capitalize off of turnovers and open looks on fast breaks ultimately caught up with Franklin, never more so than in a rough third quarter stretch. Four missed shots and two turnovers by the Admirals resulted in a 9-2 burst by Cane Ridge to enjoy a seven-point lead midway through the quarter. Second chance points by the Ravens proved damaging, including a three by Hillsman following a missed by Miller.
Kemp came alive late in the third quarter. The senior playmaker hit a 3-pointer and a layup to bookend a Miller three to pull the Admirals within five at 49-44 after trailing by as much as nine in the second half.
Cane Ridge righted the ship at the start of the fourth quarter, once again cashing in on second chance opportunities which Franklin let slip through the crack. A 5-2 spurt by the Ravens extended their lead to eight before a three by Taylor Spierto (11 points) provided a spark in the Franklin gym.
Once again, though, Cane Ridge took advantage of the same fast break opportunities which the Admirals let slip away. A missed wide-open layup by Spierto resulted in a fast-break on the other end, with Ryan Oliver (16 points) scoring on an entry pass from Miller to once again put Cane Ridge ahead by eight. Kemp sank five straight free throws—including three after being fouled by Hillsman on a 3-point attempt—to bring the Admirals within three.
A dunk by Oliver—who had 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter—put the Ravens ahead by seven, prompting a time out. A 6-2 run by Franklin brought the game within three, before Caleb Wilson (14 points) sank the first of two free throws to make a two-possession game late.
Kemp responded with a three-pointer from roughly 30 feet out to pull the Admirals within one. Spierto earned a steal on the defensive end, getting the ball to Thurman who drew a foul from Miller. The senior post hit both free throws to give Franklin its first lead since the second quarter, pulling ahead 72-71 with less than one minute to play.
It would only last as long as the next possession. Miller hit a jumper to put Cane Ridge up for good, adding a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to secure the win and top honors in the Region 6-AAA tournament.
The end result marks the first loss for Franklin in three months, snapping a 24-game win streak which followed a narrow defeat to district rival Ravenwood back in December. The Admirals went on to run the tables in the District 11-AAA tournament and enjoyed a pair of lopsided wins in the Region 6-AAA tournament including a 69-53 win over Brentwood in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Franklin still has a chance to make its way back to Murfreesboro and the Class AAA state tournament for the second time in three seasons. It will have to come the hard way, as the Admirals will hit the road for Monday’s Class AAA sectional game versus the hosting Clarksville Wildcats who won the Region 5-AAA tournament with a 70-60 win over Beech.
Cane Ridge will host Beech, also on Monday.
The winners of both games will advance to the Class AAA state tournament, which is set to begin March 18.