Grizzlies lose close one against Hanover

Seeking to find a firm foothold, the Franklin College men’s basketball team will have to wait for still another opportunity.

Playing at home Wednesday night, the Grizzlies came out on the losing end of a 72-69 overtime game to Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Hanover.

The loss left Franklin winless at 0-6 and 0-1 in the conference, while the Panthers upped their season record to 3-2 and 1-0.

The game hung in the balance until the final minute, but senior V.J. Billups scored two free throws to give Hanover a one-point lead at 70-69.

Franklin had one last-gasp effort to win it with the shot clock running down, but a fall-away jump shot by sophomore guard Aaron Mann rimmed out.

Hanover took the last possession down to four seconds, using two timeouts.

On a throw-in under their own basketball, the Panthers looked for senior guard Kyle James, this week’s Heartland Conference Player Of the Week, but it was junior Michael Van Kleunen who hit a reverse layup to give Hanover the three-point win.

Before the two teams went to overtime with the score knotted at 63-63, the game was tied nine times in the second half.

Mann, who hit three 3-pointers and led the Grizzlies with 20 points, brought the Grizzlies back each time they fell behind.

Down by two, Franklin freshman forward Jim Mace willed his way into the lane for a layup to tie the game at 61-61.

James hit a pair of free throws to send Hanover ahead 63-61, but Mann then sent the game to overtime with a 12-foot jump shot from just outside the lane on the right side.

In the extra period, it looked like Franklin was about to break into the win column for the first time this season on a 3-pointer by sophomore Matt Niehoff that gave the Grizzlies a brief 69-68 lead with 1:20 left.

But Hanover preserved the win with the two free throws by Billups and the final field goal by Van Kleuenen.

Billups closed with a team-high 16 points. James added 12 and Van Kluenen 10 for the winners. For the Grizzlies, Mace had 16 points and junior guard Trae Washington added 13.

In the first half, the game was tied four times, but Hanover — using its height advantage — went down low for six layups off of back screens.

Down by one, Washington caught fire and reeled off 10 points in a three-minute span that gave the Grizzlies a 16-13 advantage with 10 minutes left in the half.

Franklin College maintained a two- to four-point lead on baskets by Mann and a perfectly executed fast-break layup by Mace.

The Grizzlies got their biggest lead at 30-24, using quickness and an ability to capitalize on long possessions on the offensive end.

But Hanover freshman Wes McKinney knocked down a 3-pointer and junior Evan Bingham banked in a layup as the Panthers scored the final five points of the half to take a 31-30 lead at the break.

The Grizzlies are back in action against HCAC foe Bluffton at 4 p.m. Saturday.