RICHMOND, Ind. – Led by a career afternoon from freshman Sam Gutierrez and a season-best effort shooting the basketball, the Franklin College men's basketball team picked up their third win in their last four games on Saturday with a 90-80 win over Earlham College.
Gutierrez poured in a team-high 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting, giving the Tipton, Ind.-native back-to-back 20 point efforts. The Grizzlies (7-14, 6-8 HCAC) were dangerous from anywhere on the floor on Saturday afternoon, shooting a season-best 58.8 percent (30-for-51) from the field to upend the Quakers (6-15, 4-10 HCAC) and maintain a spot in the top-six in the league as the regular season enters the final two weeks.
The Grizzlies jumped out to an early lead with buckets on their first two possessions, but Earlham would answer with a 9-2 run to take their first lead of the game at the 16:31 mark. Earlham held that lead until the 12:17 mark, when a Gutierrez four-point play put the Grizzlies on top 18-17 with 12 minutes to go in the opening period.
Gutierrez' bucket sparked a 9-0 run that would put Franklin in front for the rest of the first half. The Grizzlies held their largest lead of the period following back-to-back threes from Atticus Felling and Gavin Collier that made it a 31-24 game late in the first half. The hosts trimmed the lead to a pair late, but a strong finish to the half gave the Grizzlies a 40-33 lead at the break.
The Franklin offense was spent the entire first half picking the Quakers apart, as the Grizzlies went 14-for-23 from the field and 6-for-9 from three-point range in the opening 20 minutes.
Franklin held the lead until a three-point play from Earlham's Chainey Zolman moved the hosts back in front with 15 minutes to go. A back-and-forth game ensued for several minutes before back-to-back Quaker triples put Earlham in front 67-61 with 8:26 to go in the game.
But another Franklin four-point play shortly after, this one from Kale Morris, swung the momentum back in Franklin's favor. The bucket sparked a 14-3 Franklin run that shifted the lead back to Franklin at 75-70 with five minutes to go. The Franklin defense came up with several critical stops down the stretch and the offense knocked down big shots to keep the Quakers at bay and finish off the season sweep of Earlham.
Three other Grizzlies joined Gutierrez in double figures on Saturday afternoon. John Beineke added 16 points, Morris recorded all 15 of his points in the second half and Jordan Anderson added 14 points in support. Franklin went 11-for-20 from behind the three-point line and a perfect 19-for-19 from the free throw line on Saturday afternoon.
The Grizzlies held a 32-26 advantage in the rebounding battle with Beineke's nine boards leading all players. Borden Kennedy led all players and set a new career high with seven assists.
Franklin returns home this coming Wednesday (Feb. 7) night for the start of a two-game homestand. Standing in the Grizzlies' way of a second straight win will be the Engineers of Rose-Hulman. Tip-off from the Spurlock Center is set for 7:30 p.m.