Franklin boys basketball tops Whiteland with OT buzzer-beater

Sometimes half a second is all it takes.

Left with just five tenths on the clock after his initial shot at an overtime win was blocked out of bounds, Franklin guard Wyatt Nickleson found teammate Micah Davis open under the basket for a buzzer-beating layup that allowed the Grizzly Cubs to escape with a 55-53 triumph at Whiteland on Friday night.

Nickleson finished with 17 points and Davis 16 for the Grizzly Cubs (7-7, 2-2 Mid-State Conference).

“My dad’s reffed for years, and I’ve reffed for years, so I know that 0.5, you can get a shot off,” Franklin coach Adrian Moss said. “The play was either the lob over the top for the tip-in or the slip behind; it’s definitely something we work on in practice in that situation.”

Neither team could find the basket during much of the extra frame leading up to Davis’ game-winner. Whiteland pulled ahead 53-52 on a single free throw by Brayden Roy, and Davis made one at the other end to tie it with 1:28 on the clock. A Warrior miss on the front end of a one-and-one gave Franklin 1:06 to work with at the end; most of that was used to set up a corner 3-point attempt by Nickleson, which was swatted into the stands by Whiteland’s D.J. Helm.

Undaunted, Nickleson found Davis open under the basket and the junior’s layup just beat the buzzer.

“We ended up defending the possession well,” Whiteland coach Nate Cangany said of the final sequence. “You get the blocked shot, it goes out of bounds and they’ve got 0.5 — but we’ve got to finish that. We’ve got to finish the last 0.5.”

The Warriors (6-11, 0-4) came out riding the hot hand of junior guard Jazz Banwait, who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and a baseline jumper to help the home side to a 10-5 lead in the first five-plus minutes of play.

But Whiteland cooled considerably from there, and the Grizzly Cubs took advantage, scoring 15 consecutive points over a span of 6:46 to take control of the game. Nickleson and Dylan Beverly ended the first quarter with layups to get the visitors within one, and a layup and 3-pointer from Davis early in the second continued the surge, which was capped by a pair of Beverly free throws that made it 22-12 with 4:16 remaining in the half.

Just when it seemed as though Franklin was about to pull away, however, the momentum shifted again. Ethan Edwards hit two jump shots to key a 10-0 burst, including one from the top of the key that tied the game at 22-22 with 1:07 on the clock. A couple of free throws from Nickleson sent the Grizzly Cubs into the locker room with a two-point edge.

Franklin extended its lead to 33-26 in the third quarter when Davis followed a Beverly 3-pointer with a layup through contact, but the Warriors fought back yet again. They tied the game on three separate occasions — the last on a Roy putback with 56 seconds left in the period — before reclaiming the lead at 41-40 in the closing moments on a Wiatt McLaughlin foul shot.

That advantage, like most on the evening, didn’t last long; Nickleson opened the fourth with a baseline J and a deep 3 to put the Grizzly Cubs back on top by four. But Whiteland responded with a 7-0 run that consisted of an Edwards 3-pointer, a go-ahead layup from Austin Willoughby and then another rebound and bucket by Roy with 2:57 to go.

Nate Corley hit a wing 3 at the other end to tie it at 50-50 and Davis hit two from the line to put Franklin in front again before McLaughlin fed Roy underneath to help the Warriors tie it up yet again.

The Grizzly Cubs called timeout with 40 seconds left in regulation to set up a winning play, but Davis’ floating jumper and Beverly’s follow-up attempt both rimmed out. Whiteland got the ball with 1.2 seconds to spare, but McLaughlin’s heave from just beyond midcourt missed the mark.

Beverly contributed 11 points for Franklin, with Corley adding nine. Roy paced the Warriors with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while McLaughlin scored 11, Banwait and Willoughby had eight apiece and Edwards totaled seven.

Moss hopes that the win gives his team confidence if and when similar situations arise later in the season.

“It’s experience, man,” he said. “I actually said that in overtime — this gives us another chance to work on these late-game situations. If we’re going to be the team that we want to be, make a state run, we have to be able to win games like this.

“Obviously, it’s not good for my stress level and my heart, but for us, it was a great experience for us to go through that and come out on top.”