History! Lady Warriors Win First State Tournament Of Champions With Buzzer-Beater

Franklin’s Diamond Miller drives around Manasquan’s Dara Mabrey in the 2017 Tournament of Champions final.

TRENTON – On paper, it wasn’t supposed to happen.

But in their hearts, they knew they could do it.

In what can only be described as an epic battle, the Franklin High School Lady Warriors basketball team fought back from an early double-digit deficit on March 20 to defeat the Manasquan High School Warriors, 50-48, and capture the 2017 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions trophy.

The win came about with a thrilling buzzer-beating shot from perhaps the most unlikely of sources.

The victory over powerhouse Manasquan – favored to win the game – wasn’t just thrilling, it was also historic: The win marks the first time in the program’s history that the Lady Warriors have won the overall state championship.

The win also represents a bit of revenge on the Lady Warriors’ part. It came exactly one year and one day since Manasquan ended the Lady Warriors’ 2014-15 campaign in the state tournament semi-finals. In that game, Franklin fought back from an 11-point deficit, but couldn’t hold it together in the game’s fourth quarter.

“I definitely had that loss that we took two years ago” in mind, said Franklin’s Monique Davis-Campbell, who was a sophomore at the time. “But I know that I’ve grown in that two years, and we have a different group of girls, and I know that we’re stronger than the last group.”

Going into the game, the Manasquan Warriors were ranked second in the state, with the Franklin Lady Warriors ranked fourth. Manasquan had come off a drubbing of Red Bank Catholic High School in the semi-finals, and was top-heavy with experienced players.

The Lady Warriors are younger, with Davis-Campbell the only senior.

Manasquan also had the experience of being in the TOC finals each of the last four years, winning in 2015. The Lady Warriors had clinched the Group IV state championship for only the second time in its history, and had never played in a TOC final.

So on paper, it looked like Manasquan had the upper hand, with age and experience.

But paper doesn’t account for spirit and determination, and the Lady Warriors had more than their share of each.

Squan jumped off to a fast 4-0 lead within the first 30 seconds of the game after field goals by Addie Masonius and Carly Geissler.

After several missed shots by both sides, Davis-Campbell scored from the paint, after she pulled down a rebound on a missed shot by Tiana Jackson.

Manasquan increased their lead to 6-2, but another shot from the paint by Davis-Campbell and a free throw by Jackson brought Franklin to within one point.

Squan then went on an 8-0 run, building their lead to 14-5 before Davis-Campbell scored yet again from the paint.

A three-point shot made by Squan’s Lola Mullaney with 21 seconds left in the quarter gave the Warriors a 10-point lead, 17-7.

Franklin battled back in the first four minutes of the second quarter, outscoring Manasquan 12-2 in that time frame, to tie the game at 19. Diamond Miller hit two attempts from outside the arc, including the game-tying shot. That last shot prompted a timeout from Manasquan.

In the last four minutes of the half, Squan outscored Franklin 9-4 to go to the locker room with a five-point lead, 28-23.

In the first half, Franklin dropped 35 percent of their field goals, 33 percent of their 3-point attempts and 75 percent of their free throws.

Manasquan connected with 38 percent of their field goals, 8 percent of their 3-point shots and 50 percent of their free throws.

And for the first time in this state tournament, Franklin did not hold a lead at all in the first 16 minutes of the game.

But that changed in the third quarter.

After a quick shot in the paint by Squan’s Stella Clark made the score 30-23, Franklin went on a 7-0 tear to tie the game, and got its first lead of the game with about 2:33 left in the quarter with a field goal by Davis-Campbell.

The teams spent the next two minutes trading shots, and when the dust settled, Franklin had a 36-35 lead.

Franklin and Manasquan went head-to-head in the fourth quarter, with the Lady Warriors holding the lead or tied for all but about a minute and a half.

The game was tied twice in the frame – the third and fourth ties of the game – the last time with about 1:07 left after a layup by Squan’s Faith Masonius.

With 13 seconds left to play, Franklin coach Audrey Taylor called a time out. The plan, she said later, was to get the ball to Miller to make the last shot, with everyone else positioned to get a possible rebound.

The ensuing play “almost” went according to plan, Taylor would later say.

With just a few seconds left, Miller let fly a shot from the right side that bounced off the rim.

Coming up with the rebound was freshman Kennady Schenck, who took the ball a few steps along the baseline to the left, and, with one second left on the clock, put it up.

Buzzer – swish – pandemonium.

Franklin wins, 50-48.

“When I got the ball, I was going to bring it back out because I knew I couldn’t get back to the basket,” Schenck said later. “So then I heard the bench say shoot it, so I turned around and shot it. I didn’t know if it was going in for sure, but when I saw it going through the net, it made me so excited.”

She wasn’t the only one.

“Have you ever seen freshmen with the nerves that these girls have?” Taylor asked during the after-game press conference. “They don’t carry any nerves whatsoever, it’s amazing to me. For her to do that, and turn around after everybody literally screaming ‘shoot,’ and she turned around and she did just that. Once it left her hand we knew it was good.”

Miller said that even if Schenck had missed the shot, “I believed in my team that we were going to win in overtime.”

In the second half, Franklin upped its field goal percentage to 48 percent, hit 50 percent of its three-point shots and 63 percent of its free-throws.

For the game, Franklin hit 40 percent of its field goals, 40 percent of its three-point attempts and 67 percent of its free-throws.

Manasquan in the second half hit 25 percent of its field goals, 13 percent of its three-point shots and 75 percent of its free-throws.

For the game, Squan hit 32 percent of its field goals, 10 percent of its three-point shots and 67 percent of its free-throws.

Miller led all scorers with 18 points, six of them from downtown. Keona Schenck and Davis-Campbell each scored 8 points, Kennady Schenck scored 7 points, Tiana jackson scored 5 points and Camille Gray scored 4 points.

Taylor attributed the early game trouble to nerves. Once they settled in, she said, “we started to see in their faces that they were believing. I saw it in their body expressions, I saw it in their faces. Our energy picked up. It always takes us a few possessions to go our way before we start believing.”

Taylor said she knew that the game was “going to be a battle,” and that any win would come “the old-fashioned way.”

“One shot at a time, one rebound at a time, one pass at a time,” she said. “We had to do it the fundamental way, and the girls stuck to it and pulled it out.”

Taylor has been the Lady Warriors’ head coach for seven years. The TOC win, she said, was “well-worth the wait.”

“This had been an amazing journey with an amazing group,” she said. “You know how young they are, so we had our ups and downs, we went through a lot to realize that we were a very very strong team when we played together.”

“It’s been an amazing experience, an amazing run,” she said. “It’s awesome. I’m very, very proud of these girls.”

“They put in a lot of work and to get this at the end is awesome,” she said.

2017 FHS Lady Warriors Win NJSIAA TOC


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