FHS varsity basketball closes out winning season

Senior Guard Josh Zoellner passes around Lion defender.

Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer

With the regular season and conference tournament behind them, Franklin High

Cal Drake tips off with a West Charlotte Lions team member to start the state championship game hosted by Franklin High School.

School entered the 2022-23 North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 3A basketball playoffs  Tuesday, Feb. 21. The #11 seeded men hosted #19 the West Charlotte Lions, the defending 3A state champions at the Panther Den, while the #19 Lady Panthers traveled to the Hickory area to play the 14th-seeded Freedom Patriots. Like the NCAA Division 1 March Madness tournament, NCHSAA 3A playoffs consist of 64 teams, ranked 1-32 in an East half and the same in the West.

Franklin’s Men’s Coach Doug Plemmons, in an interview with Franklin Panthers Sports Network’s George Young, pointed out that West Charlotte, despite their sub-.500 record, is a strong team and played a tough schedule.

“I think it is the toughest schedule in the state,” said Plemmons. “They play in a

FHS senior Patrick Cabe scores over the head of a defending Lion in Tuesday’s playoff game.

3A/4A split conference and even some of the 4A teams on their schedule will contend for the championship in the 4A bracket.

 “We know what we are up against; we are not fooled by the record. I think the coach probably has done this on purpose knowing he was going to play in a tough league … knowing that would favor him in the playoffs.”

On top of all the other pressure, Plemmons had a 24-game home winning streak on the line. He pointed out that his team is as healthy as it has been all year, so he felt good about going into the contest.

The game was all about West Charlotte’s size in the first half, as they dominated

The FHS student body was in full force to support the home team.

the game’s flow with strong inside play. Less than two minutes into the game, they established a sizable lead. Throughout the first half of the game, the Panthers repeatedly shot from the outside and missed, for the most part. Turnovers also played a huge role in the Panthers’ deficit as they had 13 as compared to the Lions’ 2 in the first half.

The score at halftime saw the Lions up by 15 points, 37-22. In the second half, Coach Plemmons’ squad played hard and made valuable adjustments as they chipped away at the Lions’ lead. They started taking advantage of mismatches and cut down on unforced errors. Also, Max McClure became more accurate in three-point shooting to reduce the deficit. First, the team got the score down to single digits and stepped-up defensive pressure, in addition to higher field goal percentage and purposely working to get West Charlotte into foul trouble.

With two and a half minutes left in the Tuesday night game, the Panthers cut the lead to four, 60-56. With 29 seconds left in the game, Parker Cabe put back a Max McClure three-point miss to reach a 61-58 score. That was the final, as FHS fell just short of another comeback, and their season is now over.

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