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Franklinville boys end title drought, take Class D championship

JAMESTOWN – The wait is history as this edition of the Franklinville boys basketball team will go down as champions for the first time in a quarter century.

The Panthers' size, athleticism and ability to hit from outside when it counted proved to be the difference Friday night at Jamestown Community College as Franklinville snapped its Section VI title drought by defeating Sherman, 59-48, in Class D before an estimated crowd of 2,000 at the JCC Physical Education Complex.

Brock Blecha, who helped football reach the Section VI final in the fall, showed he can be a difference-maker on the court too, as the junior scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and sparked the game-deciding run in the third quarter that enabled the Panthers (18-4) to win their first title since 1992 and 12th in program history.

"It's just a fantastic feeling," said Blecha, who averaged 9.1 points per game during the regular season. "It's pretty incredible to be able to pull this off after 25 years."

Franklinville returns to action March 11 in the Far West Regional against the Section V (Rochester-area) champion at noon at Rush-Henrietta High School.

Franklinville's size and athleticism stood out, but it momentarily got away from what it does well – run. That created an opening for Sherman to climb back into the game after it trailed 29-21 at the half.

The Wildcats (18-5) needed just 85 seconds to tie it as Jared Gleason scored five points during the 8-0 run that deadlocked the contest much to the delight of the Sherman faithful.

That prompted Franklinville coach Jeff Haskell to take a timeout and remind his team to do what it has done to reach this point in the season.

"I think they played with nothing to lose and really hard and we didn't match that immediately," Haskell said. "I thought we would be in great shape if we matched that effort. I don't think we did that at first."

They did after the timeout with Blecha helping lead the charge. His putback sparked a quarter-closing 11-0 burst that he capped with a layup. In between, classmate Isaac Kopp drained two threes as six different Panthers (each with six or more points) filled the scorebook Friday with top scorer Sam Erickson limited to seven points while dealing with foul trouble. Kopp finished with four treys and scored a game-high 18 points.

Another key to the win was Franklinville limiting Sherman's top scorer, Chris Robson, to 16 points including just four through 24 minutes.

The Panthers took the early lead thanks to their outside shooting with Kopp canning a pair of treys and Darren Clark hitting another three as Franklinville led, 15-10, through one quarter.

The Panthers led by nine after Tyler Pitner drained his second three-pointer of the second quarter but Sherman, which took out top-seeded Clymer in the semifinals and is three years removed from having won the second of consecutive sectional titles, collected itself.

"We know they're so scrappy, work so hard … and they've been here," Haskell said. "We worried that would be a difference."

It was for a while, until Franklinville seized the game, the moment and the championship.

"It's extremely satisfying," coach Jeff Haskell said. "This was our goal. … It’s really special."

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