FRANKLIN, Ind. – The Franklin College men's basketball team opened conference play on Saturday (Dec. 2) afternoon, taking on the No. 7-ranked Hanover Panthers in the annual Bankers Rivalry Game inside the Spurlock Center.
Facing off against the 2017 national quarterfinalists, the Grizzlies (1-5, 0-1 HCAC) threw everything they had at the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) favorites, exchanging 14 lead changes and nine ties with Panthers (5-1, 1-0 HCAC) during the game. Franklin's upset bid would fall just short, as Hanover escaped the Spurlock Center with a 75-68 win.
"Our biggest takeaway tonight is that we played within ourselves," Head coach Kerry Prather said after the game. "Our first half defense was really good. We went to the offensive glass hard and we made ourselves hard to guard. I'm so proud of the battle our guys showed and we didn't hurt ourselves tonight. We know Hanover is the measuring stick in this league and we grew up today because we played hard and we didn't hurt ourselves."
Hanover jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, but Franklin would rattle off a 13-4 run to take a four-point lead at the 13:43 mark in the first half. The game stayed within one possession until a 9-2 run put Hanover up 31-24 with less than two minutes left in the half. But Franklin would have an answer, closing out the half on a 7-0 run capped by a buzzer-beater from John Beineke that evened things up at 31 at the break.
The back-and-forth battle continued into the second half, as neither side could gain separation on the scoreboard. Franklin would hold a 49-48 lead midway through the second half following a three-point play by Danny Goggans with 10:39 to play.
The game's deciding run came over a five-minute stretch that saw Hanover outscore the Grizzlies 13-2 to take a 61-51 lead. The young Grizzlies refused to cave in down by double figures, rallying to cut the lead to 61-57 with four minutes to go.
A Sam Gutierrez three with 33 to play made it 69-66 Panthers, but that's as close as the Grizzlies would get as Hanover sank six straight free throws to put the game out of reach.
Goggans led the Grizzlies with a season-high 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting. Gutierrez added 16 points while Beineke and Kale Morris had 12 apiece. Franklin shot 43.5 percent (27-for-62) from the floor on Saturday afternoon, going 5-for-18 from three and 9-for-11 at the line.
Reigning HCAC Player of the Year Wes McKinney had a game-high 22 points to lead the Panthers. Hanover also shot 43.5 percent (27-for-62) from the field, connecting on 4-of-16 three pointers and 17-of-21 free throw attempts.
Franklin held a 39-35 advantage in the rebounding battle with Beineke and Goggans grabbing nine rebounds each. Seven of Beineke's rebounds came on the offensive glass, where the Grizzlies held a 13-12 advantage.
Hanover held a 34-24 advantage on points in the pair. The Panthers forced 13 Franklin turnovers while committing just seven turnovers on the afternoon. Points off turnovers were 18-6 in favor of Hanover.
Franklin heads back out on the road for a quick two-game conference road trip, starting next Wednesday (Dec. 6) when the Grizzlies travel to Anderson University. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.