WORCESTER – Has there ever been a more exhilarating, white-knuckled rollercoaster ride of a final minute in the annals of the Franklin boys’ basketball program?
Down 8 points with 50 seconds to go in their Division 1 state semifinal against Springfield Central at the DCU Center on Wednesday night, the Panthers rocketed back to force overtime on a gutsy 3-pointer from a freshman along with a controversial buzzer-beater that was waved off to Franklin’s fortune.
The Panthers then took control in OT to prevail, 60-54, and secure their state final appearance.
Franklin (22-2) will play unbeaten Cambridge (23-0) in Saturday’s Division 1 state final (5:45 p.m.) at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
“They make great stories for a reason. It was a hell of a game, probably one of the best games I’ve ever played in,” said freshman Chris Edgehill (12 points), who tied the game with a corner 3 off an inbound pass with eight seconds to go. “That was sick.”
For the second straight game, the Panthers pulled it out in overtime. But this ending will likely be talked about a lot long than that contest, a 67-64 thriller over St. John’s of Shrewsbury for the Central crown.
With the game tied at 51, the Golden Eagles (19-3) pushed the ball inside, and senior Jashidi Pressley appeared to float in an eight-footer from the elbow before the buzzer. The Eagles stormed the court, with head coach Darryl Denson joining the dogpile in front of press row. But the officials overturned the call a few moments later.
“Personally, I didn’t think they made the shot,” Franklin coach C.J. Neeley said. “[The refs] looked at me and said, ‘The three of us are going to get together and figure it out’. Luckily for us, they figured it out in a good way for us.”
Denson didn’t see it the same way.
“No calls were overturned all game. And now, that gets overturned? That raises red flags for me,” he said. “If they’d been overturned calls during the game, I could say ‘OK, they’ve been working together’. But one call at the end that gets overturned? That’s a question I’m going to ask the [referees] board.”
Franklin sophomore Jalen Samuels kicked off overtime with a 3, followed by a basket from Connor Peterson (15 points), before Paul Mahon (12 points) essentially sealed it with two free throws with 11 seconds to go for a 58-54 advantage.
Central’s Maickel De Jesus Garcia led all scorers with 18 points, followed by 16 from teammate Justin Feleciano.
Franklin 60, Springfield Central 54 (OT)
at DCU Center, Worcester
SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL (19-3) — Justin Feleciano 6 1 16, Maickel De Jesus Garcia 5 8 18, Ahmad Conner 1 0 2, Jorge Torres 4 0 8, Hason Ward 0 1 1, Jashidi Pressley 3 2 9. Totals 19 12 54.
FRANKLIN (21-4) — Jalen Samuels 2 5 10, Josh Macchi 3 2 8, Chris Edgehill 3 3 12, Connor Peterson 5 5 15, Paul Mahon 4 2 12, Connor Goldstein 1 0 3. Totals 18 17 60.
Halftime: Springfield Central, 24-20. 3-pt. goals: SC Justin Feleciano 3, Jashidi Pressley; F Jalen Samuels, Chris Edgehill 3, Paul Mahon 2, Connor Goldstein.