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Team basketball propels Franklinville to state Final Four

BATAVIA – If you ever need a lesson in how to play unselfish team basketball, just watch tape of the Franklinville boys' team.

Four players scored in double figures for the Panthers (20-4) as they dominated Section V's C.G. Finney (20-6) in a 63-40 Class D Far West Regional win at Genesee Community College on Saturday.

Franklinville never trailed in the game, assisted on 15 of its 24 field goals and had the top four scorers, led by junior Sam Erickson's 19 points. Classmates Brock Blecha scored 16, Isaac Kopp had 15 on five three-pointers and Darren Clark added 11, including three three-pointers.

"Sammy and Isaac have been go-tos ... and Darren, all three of them ... and Dylan (Burton) are ... I feel like I can name all of them," Panthers coach Jeff Haskell said. "Without doubt, everybody knows the guy next to them can make the play."

A selfless brand of basketball got Franklinville its first sectional title since 1992 this season. It now has the Panthers in their first New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four since 1978.

Will it be enough to win a state championship in Binghamton next weekend?

"We've been all in," Erickson said. "It takes 11 guys. If you don't have all 11, we wouldn't be here right now. I think it's just a great environment we're in, and I think we're going to keep on going."

"I think we can go all the way. I think it's our year."

Haskell has noticed that different mindset at Franklinville, and he thinks it's something that's been spearheaded by the athletics program.

"I think our school has changed in the last couple years," Haskell said, "the catch-22 is with these guys being a part of it. These guys have changed the atmosphere in our sports. The football team has been successful, our girls have changed, so I think that we've started to believe.

"Their mentality is different. ... I truly believe that they know they belong."

The Panthers looked like they belonged from the get-go on Saturday.

Blecha scored four of his 12 first-quarter points on easy transition baskets within 70 seconds to force an early Finney timeout.

"Brock is just that kid that gets out, he listens," Haskell said. "He was supposed to go opposite, so what's he do? He goes opposite and gets 12 points in a quarter."

Franklinville held a 21-15 lead after eight minutes, but a smaller Finney team that relies on three-point shooting drained four to keep them in it.

Haskell, who has scouted the Falcons a couple of times this season, made a few adjustments defensively. Finney scored only two more the rest of the way, and not until the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.

"It's contagious," Haskell said. "They get hot and they roll with it, and we never let them get hot. We closed out shooters. Every guy closed out."

The Panthers scored only three field goals in the second quarter but limited Finney to four as they took a 30-25 lead into halftime. Franklinville's offense turned around in a dominant 17-6 third quarter. The Panthers used a 14-0 run spanning from the final 3:10 of the third to the early part of the final frame to extend their advantage to the largest of the game, 56-31.

When the transition opportunities weren't open for the Panthers, they showed the ability to space the floor and remain patient while working the ball inside. The 6-foot-3 Clark (11 rebounds) and 6-foot-4 Erickson (nine rebounds) helped Franklinville outrebound Finney, 43-23, for the game.

"Obviously we had a size advantage," Haskell said. "Not that we're really big in one place, but we're really big overall and pretty fast."

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