FRANKLIN, Ind. – After two straight games away from home, the Franklin College women's basketball returned to action inside the Spurlock Center on Saturday afternoon in search of a much-needed win against the Mount St. Joseph Lions.
Down by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Grizzlies (7-15, 6-10 HCAC) clawed their way back into the game in the second half. The catalyst for the comeback was the Franklin defense, which held the Lions (10-13, 6-10 HCAC) to 6-for-25 shooting in the second half while the offense closed out a 72-68 win.
The win snaps a three-game slide and moves the Grizzlies into a tie with Mount St. Joseph and Manchester for the final two spots in the conference tournament entering the final week of the regular season.
"We had a great team effort today," Head coach Dana Haggenjos said. "Mount St. Joe got hot early on us, but we stayed disciplined and were finally able to get things going in the second half. We did a great job today limiting our turnovers, and we got to the glass and free throw line and we picked up a much-needed win."
Franklin took their first lead of the day with a 6-0 run that made it 11-8 Franklin with four minutes gone in the first quarter. But the Franklin offense would go silent the rest of the quarter while the Lions caught fire to take a 19-13 lead after 10 minutes of play.
The Mount stayed hot in the second quarter, connecting on 8-of-11 field goals and 6-of-7 three-pointers in the period. The Lions held their largest lead of the afternoon at 33-17 with 6:54 left in the half, but Franklin cut the deficit in half before the end of the period and trailed 44-36 at the break.
A fast start to the second half wiped out the rest of the deficit, as Bayleigh Walker and Riley Achenbach combined for the first eight points of the third quarter to tie the game at 44. The lead would trade hands four times before a pair of MSJ free throws in the final second put the hosts up 56-54 heading into the final period of play.
The Lions wouldn't trail again until the final minute of the game, when an Erin Bradley layup put Franklin up 69-68 with 52 seconds to go. The Lions would come up empty in their final three possessions of the game, while Franklin sealed the win at the line.
Franklin was led by Walker, who made her return to the starting lineup and finished with 24 points in just 20 minutes of action. Mallory Cast provided an offensive spark off the bench, knocking down a trio of three-pointers on her way to an 11-point night.
The Grizzlies connected on 40.9 percent (27-for-66) of their shots on the day while the Lions shot 42.6 percent (20-for-47) from the field. The Grizzlies dominated the game on the glass, out-rebounding the Lions 44-27. Franklin grabbed 19 offensive rebounds that led to 20 second chance points. Lindsay Freije led the team with 10 rebounds, grabbing a career-high five offensive boards.
Franklin took exceptional care of the ball on Saturday afternoon, holding a 16-10 advantage in the turnover battle and a 24-7 edge in points off turnovers.
Next up for the Grizzlies is their final home game of the year, which is set for Wednesday (Feb. 14) night against Transylvania University. Before the start of the game, the Franklin women's basketball program will hold their senior night festivities, honoring guards Riley Achenbach and Kelsey Smith for their tenures with the program.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.