Green as grass and with bales of turnovers and missed free throws to its credit, the Brookfield East boys basketball team turned to the two experienced hands it could trust Wednesday night in its season opener at Franklin.
And when junior guards Brian Smith and Ryan McBride scored back-to-back hoops in a matter of seven seconds very late in the fourth quarter, the Spartans had turned a 61-60 deficit into a 64-61 victory.
"They're the only two guys we have back with any varsity experience," said East coach Andy Farley. "Ryan had been in foul trouble most of the game (only 11 minutes played all told) so we ran that last play through Nick (Kanavas) and then Brian (Smith) finishes (to take the lead) and then Ryan (McBride) steals the in-bounds and hits another lay-up."
"I just couldn't be more pleased with the way we executed at the end of the game."
Meanwhile, Franklin coach Tim Hogan, who also has much rebuilding to do after an excellent 2010-11 campaign, couldn't help but be a little discouraged after the Sabers lost a four-point lead in the last 2:26.
"It's what we talked to the kids about," he said. "We had just way too many inconsistencies. We'd make one good play and then we'd make an errant pass. Our decision-making just needed to be a lot better and our team chemistry has to come together quickly if we're going to be successful."
The Sabers, who enjoyed a lead that got to as high as five points for much of the second half, looked to be in control with 3:12 remaining when sophomore post Chad Kanugh (10 points) hit a baseline jumper.
East then missed an easy shot but on the corresponding possession, which could have extended the Saber lead, Franklin was called for an offensive foul.
McBride then hit one of two free throws to cut the deficit to 59-55 with 2;26 remaining. The Spartans hurt themselves with great inconsistency at the foul line in the second half, hitting only 10 of 20 attempts in that time.
Then came the play of the game. A Franklin player was called for a foul on the next Spartan possession. His reaction also elicited a technical foul from the official.
East then hit two of the subsequent four free throws but more importantly, Smith (15 points), hit a driving lay-up on the next play to tie the score at 59-all with 1:16 left.
"That was a huge swing in the game," said Farley. "We faced some major adversity all game long, but there were a number of possessions where we were able to get some big stops."
Still, the Sabers were in good shape as senior post Danny Kingstad hit a lay-up off a nice feed from Brett Ksobiech to make it 61-59 with 1:03 remaining. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw.
Smith hit one of two charity tosses on the next East trip down the floor to make it 61-60. The Spartans got the rebound on the second attempt miss but then turned it over.
Franklin could not succeed on the next possession and wound up turning the ball over itself.
East took time-out with 30 seconds left and ran the decisive play for Smith, who drove in from the right side for the go-ahead lay-up (62-61) with 14 seconds remaining.
And before the Sabers could even react, McBride stole the inbounds pass and cashed another lay-up with just seven seconds remaining.
Franklin tried to run a play for the tieing three-pointer but failed to get off a good attempt.
"We're always talking about the next play, of owning the moment," said Farley. "They pulled ahead for much of the second half, but we were always able to reel them back in."
Junior forward Mike Novak led the Spartans with 20 including three, three-pointers while Mike Eberle had nine. Ksobiech had 22 points for Franklin to lead all scorers on seven of 13 shooting while Nick Bobos had 12. Franklin hurt itself with 18 turnovers.
"After you get past some of our starting line-up, there just isn't a lot of experience out there for us," said Hogan. "We need that chemistry to develop. After that happens I think we'll start to catch up with the speed of the game.
"We'll get things figured. This hurts, but it is a learning experience. The bottom line for us is that we have to play better defense in clutch situations and take better care of the ball."
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