RICHMOND, Ind. – The Franklin men's basketball team began a two-game road swing on Saturday (Jan. 12) afternoon, heading east for the first of two meetings in 2019 with the Earlham Quakers.
After falling into an early double-digit hole, the Grizzlies (4-10, 2-6 HCAC) clawed their way back to take the lead right before the half. Franklin jumped out to a double figure lead early in the second half, but the Quakers (4-11, 3-5 HCAC) would rally back thanks to their offense, grabbing the lead for good in the final minute on their way to a 79-77 win.
The Grizzly bench came up big offensively on Saturday, recording 56 of the team's 77 points. Sam Gutierrez went 7-for-9 from the floor and knocked down three triples to finish with a team-high 23 points. Sophomore Payton Mills was solid on the low block for the Grizzlies, netting a season-high 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
Early on, the Quakers used an opportunistic defense to jump out to a 10-0 lead, forcing five turnovers in the game's opening five minutes. But the Grizzlies would shake off their early struggles, buckling down at both ends of the floor to rattle off a 15-4 run, capped by a Matt Krause three that tied the game with 10 minutes left in the half.
A 9-2 run later in the half gave Franklin their largest lead of the opening half at 26-17. Earlham was able to trim the lead to 30-28 at the break, scoring seven of the final nine points of the opening half.
Franklin came out swinging to open the second half, ripping off a 10-2 run over the opening five minutes of the period to take their largest lead to that point at 40-30 15:31 left in the game. Gutierrez put the Quakers in an 11-point hole with 13:26 to go, converting a four-point play to make it 47-36, giving the Grizzlies what would be their largest lead of the game.
Earlham turned to the long ball to slice into the lead, knocking down two in a row to spark a 10-2 run to pull within three at 49-46 with just under 12 minutes to go. The Quakers took their first lead of the second half with a Blake Bonin three to make it 60-58, but Gutierrez answered with two free throws to tie the game with seven minutes to go.
Both sides traded buckets over the next few minutes and the Grizzlies held a 75-74 lead with 39 seconds to play following a pair of Gutierrez free throws. Earlham snatched the lead back with a three-point play and following an offensive foul, one Bonin free throw made it a three-point game. Instead of allowing the Grizzlies a look at the tying basket, the Quakers opted to foul in the back court and force the Grizzlies to shoot free throws the rest of the way.
Jordan Anderson had 10 points for the Grizzlies and Franklin as a team shot 49 percent (25-for-51) from the floor on the night. The Grizzlies knocked down 4-of-9 three-pointers and went 23-for-30 at the line. Krause and Kyle Meyer tied for the team lead with five rebounds each while Borden Kennedy had a team-high three steals.
Franklin finishes their first trip through conference play on Wednesday (Jan. 16), when they head to Lexington, Ky. to take on the Transylvania Pioneers. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.