BINGHAMTON – Without question, the all junior starting five did something special for the Franklinville boys basketball team this season.
So memorable in fact that it will be tough for future editions of the squad to top the achievements of this group. The current edition will return, though, hoping to do just that.
The Panthers must take solace in all of that, as a New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association veteran crushed their dream of returning home as a state champion.
Franklinville's run ended in the semifinals Friday, as last year's state runner-up Moriah pounced early and whenever the Panthers tried to make a comeback charge in taking an 82-64 decision in a Class D semifinal.
An estimated 800 fans turned out for the earliest of the six semifinal games on tap for the day at Floyd L. Maines Memorial Arena – the first-time host for one of the signature events on the NYSPHSAA tournament calendar.
They saw the Vikings seize control from the start as the state's top-ranked team earned a spot in Saturday afternoon's championship game at 5:15 p.m. against IV-Newfield. Newfield defeated X-Harrisville in double overtime, 65-62.
They also saw the Vikings shoot 50 percent from the floor as four players hit double-figures for the winners. Dylan Trombley shined, as the junior point guard scored a game-high 29 points, grab six rebounds and dish out five assists for Moriah (24-1) with teammates Joey Stahl and Andrew Snyder each adding 13 points.
Moriah got off to a sizzling start while Franklinville (20-5) was as frigid as the wind chill. The Vikings bolted to leads of 13-3 and 18-6.
Stahl, who hit the game-winning basket last year for the Vikings against Panama in the semifinals, drained a pair of three-pointers, while Snyder also drained one from downtown. Mix in a three-point play from Trombley and the Panthers were in catchup mode the entire morning.
"We prided ourselves lately on good starts and maybe setting the tone," Franklinville coach Jeff Haskell said. "Trombley and Stahl hit those shots. When they hit them they weren't even touching rim. It gave them momentum. … I think that fast start just got them rolling."
Franklinville, which won its first sectional title since 1992 and advanced to the final four for the first time in 39 years, kept plugging away even though it had trouble working the ball inside during the first half.
The Panthers, who shot 42.6 percent for the game but just 26.1 during the opening 16 minutes in falling behind 28-19 at halftime, managed to cut the deficit to seven thrice, with juniors Sam Erickson (26 points) and Darren Clark (12) leading the charge. The last time came on an Erickson layup with 1:50 left in the third.
Just like the previous two rally attempts, Moriah regained control. Trombley followed that basket by draining a comeback-crushing trey. The shot sparked a 17-5 run in which he scored 14 of those points – capping it with a layup with 6:15 left.
"I felt we fought back," Haskell said. "We just couldn't get that next stop. Trombley played outstanding. He got them big baskets every time they needed them. Every time we made a nice run and felt we were there and got that momentum, he stuck a dagger in us."
While Franklinville didn't return home with the ultimate prize, the talented crew – which potentially returns all five starters next season, did help snap the program's lengthy championship drought. They dared to dream after crushing Section V champion C.G. Finney in last week's Far West Regional to earn a grand return to the state final four stage for the first time in nearly four decades.
Alas, those memories will have to suffice.
"They played a great game," Erickson said. "We played hard, we fought till the end. We just fell short."
"We take this as a stepping stone; to get to the next game next year is obviously our goal," Haskell said. "They're not happy. Their thoughts right now are on a devastating loss but I think given the day and weekend, time heals all and they'll understand the accomplishments they did and I hope it fuels the fire starting the offseason."