The boys teams for Franklin and East Nashville have created a tremendous interleague rivalry through the years, with its previous two games coming down to a buzzer beater.
Tuesday’s entry is one that the Rebels would love to have back, failing to preserve a double digit lead in a 75-67 loss to the hosting Eagles in the 2019-20 season opener Tuesday evening at East Nashville High School.
Junior point guard Reed Kemp scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the Rebels loss, though also playing an integral role in Franklin forcing both a fast pace and for East Nashville to spend most of the night in a hole.
“I thought we came out, played hard and started out strong,” Franklin head coach Jason Tigert—who left Dickson County HS to take over for current Williamson County Schools athletic director Darrin Joines—told the Home Page. “We got a little rattled towards the end, and that’s understandable. [East Nashville] is a heck of a ball club and we’re a young team without a lot of experience.”
Missing from the Rebels’ arsenal is Reese Glover, one of the purest shooters in school history who averaged more than 25 points per game last season. This very matchup one year ago saw Glover drain a buzzer-beater to kick off a dream season for Franklin who advanced to the state tournament for the first time in 30 years.
Revenge was gained during the Middle Tennessee Invitational Tournament last December, when Isaiah Jones scored the game-tying basket to force overtime, where he scored the final points in a 71-70 win.
The 6’6” post player, now a junior, decided to make Tuesday’s game far less dramatic, engineering an epic fourth quarter run for the Eagles, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the final eight minutes along with timely rebounds on the defensive end all while being tasked with guarding Franklin low-post presence Matt Thurman (12 points, 9 rebounds).
“We lost a lot of talent from last year, so I know I have to be a leader, a floor general this year,” Jones told Home Page. “I was able to find room to hit a couple of threes and it opened up the floor for our shooters who did the rest.”
Jones turned to family in aiding his cause, with younger brother Jaylen Jones—a freshman guard—contributing with 14 points, including 4-three pointers, while junior guard Josh Cole went off for 11 of his game-high 24 points in the final quarter.
The trio helped erase a 10-point lead the Rebels enjoyed after three quarters of play. To that point, it was Kemp and sophomore guard Brevin Klym (9 points on 3-5 shooting from three-point range) wreaking havoc on the home team. The Rebels jumped out to a 14-4 lead and was ahead at the end of each quarter through the first 24 minutes.
Inexperience eventually got the best of them—along with an inspired and swarming Eagles squad whose sharpshooters proved too much to conquer down the stretch, particularly with Franklin’s sudden inability to control the ball.
“We just turned the ball over way too much in the fourth quarter,” admitted Tigert of a Rebels squad who committed twice as many turnovers as the Eagles (22-11). “With time, as our guys mature and get that varsity experience, it will make up for those mistakes.”
Aiden Smylie was among the four underclassmen in the starting lineup and one of three first-year starters. The junior forward contributed with 10 points and 3 rebounds, but also suffered a major scare when he injured himself late in the game while attempting to defend a Willie Wilson layup in the game’s final 2:30 of play.
Junior post Mason Jones added 8 points and 10 rebounds while previous year role player Connor Beavon had 5 points, 4 rebounds and a blocked shot for a young Rebels squad who remains confident of maturing when it matters the most.
“Look, you never want to lose any game but this was a great game between two terrific ball clubs,” notes Tigert in taking the non-conference game as the appropriate learning lesson. “Last I checked, they didn’t hand out trophies in November.”
The Rebels (0-1) head back to Williamson County for its own home opener on Thursday, hosting Columbia Central in non-conference play.