They may have had to take one game to work the kinks out, but the Franklin High School Lady Panthers are looking to turn it on now that they have played the first four games of their season, posting a 3-1 record.
The first game of the season left some concerns when the team fell to T.C. Roberson on the road in a low scoring affair that resulted in a final score of 36-34. The team had a 22-5 record and went deep into the state playoffs just last year and was expected to be fairly dominant this season after losing only one player from last year's team.
“They definitely had some first game jitters,” said head coach Scott Hartbarger. “We didn't shoot well for one. We were hitting about 30 percent from the field. They pressed us and we just couldn't run. That's where our team really excels, when we can get the ball and run with it. Of some note though, the team played extremely well on defense. It's rare that you see a team score so low and still win. We had a chance to tie it and push it to overtime but we missed our last shot and they got the win.”
Despite their forgettable first game, the team began to find their footing in the first conference game that came against the Brevard Blue Devils. The Panthers were dominant in their win of 62-34 and continued the trend on Saturday when they played the West- Oak Warriors, winning by a score of 55-31.
“We were able to bounce back. We put pressure on them and it worked. They didn't press us like T.C. did and we took advantage of that,” said Hartbarger.
On Tuesday night, the Lady Panthers hosted their first game against the undefeated Pisgah Bears. The stands were packed by the home crowd and visiting spectators for the conference showdown. The Panthers jumped to an early lead, but the Sugar Bears fired right back and continued to gain momentum throughout the half. Capitalizing on an overly aggressive Panther defense they coupled continuous trips to the foul line with effective game play under the net to take the lead into half-time.
“We went to the locker room and discussed a few changes. When we came back out we wanted to tone down the fouls and control our shots better,” said Hartbarger.
And they did just that. The changes were obvious from the start of the third quarter, despite falling behind. The fouls came less frequently and Franklin was able to hit some important three pointers to catch the Bears. With 34.2 seconds left on the scoreboard, Franklin had taken the lead 48 to 46. Pisgah scored to catch up, but the Panthers bounced right back with accurate shots from the foul line to hold on to the lead and eventually pulled out the win with a final score of 51-48, handing the Pisgah Sugar Bears their first loss of the season.
“It was a big win for us. We knew that whoever won this game was going to be in control of the conference,” said Hartbarger. “Now we have to look to the next game. It's important for us to take it one game at a time so now we'll focus on Friday.”
The Lady Panthers will travel to Sylva tomorrow to take on the 2-3 Smoky Mountain Mustangs in another conference game. That game will take place at 6:30 p.m. followed by the men's varsity game at 8 p.m.
The boy's varsity basketball team also played on Tuesday night when they took on the 4-0 Pisgah Bears. Unable to bounce back after the Bears took an early lead, the boys lost by a final score of 67-51. The loss moves the team to 0-4 with their next game taking place tomorrow against the undefeated Smoky Mountain Mustangs. Next Tuesday the Panthers will play their second home game when they take on the West Henderson Falcons.