Standing on court level you could feel the energy intensify during pregame warm-ups.
The student section antagonizing the opposing team.
The crowd chattering in anticipation.
The athletes emitting a fierce aura.
It left no doubt this was a rivalry. A good ol’ fashion ‘Lets line em up and see who’s better!’.
Both teams showed their teeth with a barrage of three pointers to open the game. A buzzer beater by Pisgah ended the first quarter to make it 18-17 Panthers.
During a Physical second quarter Pisgah couldn’t seem to figure out the 1-3-1 zone defense Franklin presented. Allowing Jay Bueck to garner 5 steals and the Panthers a 34-23 halftime lead.
An 11 point halftime deficit would make most teams call it a night and start planning their after game meal. But this is a conference rival and things were just getting started.
Tony Christie offered his insight at the half. “In a game with high emotions, there is a lot of adrenaline in the first part of a rivalry game, my coach used to always say, “Lets see who can keep it going when things settle down.””.
In their respective locker rooms the mood was probably anything but settled and both squads were likely given a speech straight out of the movie Any Given Sunday.
The fast paced third quarter saw Franklin race to a 14 point lead, only to have Pisgah track them down with a 12-2 run. With two seconds remaining, the quarter ended on an inbound pass from Bueck to Manning and a quick give back to Bueck where he drained a near half court buzzer beater shot! 44-39 Panthers at the end of three.
As their offensive production struggled, Franklin slowed the pace during the 4th. Pisgah took advantage and claimed their first lead with 5:48 to go.
A back and forth ensued. Just when one side seemed to deflate the other, pride stepped in and not only inflated chests but quality of play as well. What one might call a “barn burner” as commentator George Young described it.
The fourth quarter had it all. Acrobatic shots, three pointers, gutsy plays, defensive stands, in and out shots, coaching strategy, crowd emotion, clock malfunctions. But most of all, it had heart. Neither team yielding to the other.
A wide open Tye Chastain took an inbound pass and turned it into an easy bucket to tie the game with 11 seconds remaining. On the other end Jay Bueck was able to make a steal and race down court for what seemed to be the game clenching layup. However, the consistent Bueck missed an off balance layup and Chastain couldn’t get a second chance tip to go in as time expired.
Four quarters could not decide this one. Tied 54-54
Emotions continued to ramp up in overtime and the back and forth didn’t stop. On a crucial missed free throw, a lane violation by Franklin allowed Pisgah to sink the second chance free throw and keep the game tied. A last second shot by Franklin wouldn’t fall and the first overtime ended 58-58.
The second OT was the beginning of the end for Franklin. The best way to describe it would be to take that Any Given Sunday football speech and modify it for this basketball game as a whole.
It would go something like this;
Life’s this game of inches and so is basketball. One half step to fast or to slow and you don’t quite make it. One half second to early or to late and your shot doesn’t fall. One inch to high or to low and your pass is stolen. But we’ll fight for that inch as team or lose as individuals. Because that’s how winning is done!
The Franklin Panthers might have lost 65-63 in double overtime, but they fought for every inch and lost as a team. They lost to nothing more than a few half second to early or late, half step to fast or slow, inch to high or low.
Losing is akin to a punch in the gut and a rivalry game loss will add heartbreak. So the message the Franklin Panthers should receive is; if you’re willing to face losing, it comes with a bonus.
Which is the experience you gain. The knowledge that you can lose without being a loser. That you can and will succeed because you are willing to fail. That you have a supporting cast that loves and believes in you and has your back no matter what the outcome. That you can face failure and come out the other side better because of it.
So shake it off and hold your head high. Know that there will be good and bad moments throughout your athletic career. Learn from them, because these are the moments that build your future. These are the moments that matter. Remember that.
And whatever this is…We think.