FC GIRLS HOOPS: Bound for 'Elite Eight' round

by Sean Dunlap

And then there were but eight, including Franklin County High School’s varsity girls basketball team, in the Class 3A post-season hunt for a state title.

The Lady Bulldogs, who were the No. 1 seed from District 7 after sweeping their regional competition with a 12-0 record including two divisional tournament wins, knocked off District 6 No. 2-seed Crystal Springs, 45-29, on Friday, Feb. 17 in the “Sweet 16” round playoff game in Meadville.

FC had initially beaten 5-3A No. 4-seed Enterprise of Clarke County, 52-36, at home on Monday, Feb. 13 in the “round-of-32” post-season match-up played in Meadville.

Crystal Springs hosted and slipped past the 8-3A No. 3-seeded Tylertown Lady Chiefs, 44-39, that same night.

Franklin County claimed an early lead against Crystal Springs by jumping out to an 8-2 advantage in the first eight minutes of regulation.

The Lady Tigers were scoreless until Tamia Yates went to the free throw line and sank two with 6.4 seconds left in the stanza.

Crystal Springs’ offense began clicking in the second quarter and actually took their first lead, 14-13, with 3:08 remaining in the first half.

FC retook the lead, 15-14, on back-to-back buckets from the charity stripe by Ja’Kya Brown with 1:43 showing on the clock.

From there, the Lady Dawgs’ Arya Williams went 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 1:27 left for intermission and Porter drained a field goal with just over a minute remaining to boost the home team’s lead to four points, 18-14, at the mid-game break.

Things stayed fairly tight through the early portion of the third quarter as Crystal Springs tied things up at 18-all with 5:05 left in the frame, but Franklin County’s offense began to methodically pull away.

DeAsia Buie broke the tie thanks to a pair of free throws with 4:40 showing on the game clock with Kennedy Washington also draining a pair of penalty shots and Williams connecting on a field goal at the 2:58 mark to push the Lady Dawgs out to a 24-18 lead.

Still, Crystal Springs was able to pull within two points of FC’s lead, 25-23, going into the fourth quarter.

The final eight minutes of the game belonged to Franklin County as the Lady Dawgs went on a 20-6 scoring run with Harmoni Porter and Brown sliding in back-to-back three pointers in the first minute of the last stanza.

The Lady Tigers were scoreless for better than two minutes to start the fourth quarter, but by then, FC had already gotten a field goal by Buie and another trey from Porter for a 36-23 lead with six minutes left to play.

Crystal Springs mustered only six more points down the stretch as FC’s girls had seemingly taken control of the game with numerous rebounds, fast breaks and the ability to find the rim.

Buie paced the Franklin County winning effort with 14 points, which included five field goals and a 4-of-9 effort from the free throw line.

She also combined for 13 rebounds – six on offense and seven on defense.

Porter also finished in double-digit scoring with 13 – thanks to a trio of three pointers and two field goals – and recorded two rebounds (one offensive and the other defensive) in conjunction with four steals.

Brown collected nine points with a single trey combined with a 6-of-8 performance from the stripe on foul shots.

Additionally, she was credited with six assists, four steals and a blocked shot.

Niyla Wright scored four points with field goals in the first and fourth quarters while Williams finished with three points and Washington chipped in two.

Wright wound up with six rebounds – four of those on defense – and a steal while Williams had a take-away and Washington tacked on a defensive rebound, an assist and four steals.

DeShara Hannon and Raine Edmond both had an offensive rebound for FC with Edmond also making two blocks during her time in the contest.

Franklin County, with a 22-7 record on the season, is slated to travel to Clinton High School at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25 for an “Elite Eight” showdown against District 5-3A No. 1-seed Morton High School.

The Lady Panthers punched their ticket to this weekend’s contest by defeating the 7-3A No. 4-seed Wesson Lady Cobras, 65-14, and the 8-3A No. 2-seed Saint Patrick Lady Fighting Irish, 66-35.