Lady Broncos may have fallen short, but they#8217;re still ahead of the game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mona Sumblin smiled and even laughed a few times at Saturday’s press conference after the Franklin High School girls’ basketball team lost in the VHSL Group A, Division 1 championship game.

Two other reporters and I reporters quizzed the coach, Janice Holeman and Timia Hobbs in the Virginia Commonwealth University press room. Just moments before, several camera crews and a dozen reporters had grilled the Buffalo Gap High School coach about the big win.

Now, the press had gone to scarfing down the free pizza (something sports writers are really good at!).

Although Sumblin was jovial at the press conference, I’m sure it was in some ways also tearing her up inside.

Playing (and coaching) high school sports at that level is a heady experience. The enormity of it all can be overwhelming.

Can you imagine 11 young ladies from little old Franklin going into the Siegel Center to start a game, the lights go down, and the spotlights whirl around the gym as the players are announced in front of 3,000-plus fans? It was like something out of the NBA.

I can remember back to when I was an athlete in high school. I am 42 now, pushing 43, but I can still remember in detail certain plays in baseball games and races that I ran.

My children have played for soccer and baseball teams that have won championships, and also had a few near misses.

When they won

those events, or came close, I told them, “This is something you will always remember the rest of your life.”

The same will be true for the Franklin High School girls’ basketball team. Despite missing out on the state championship aturday, the tremendous run they had will stay with

those players for a lifetime. The experience of getting to the big game is something they will tell their children and grandchildren. They

played on TV and on an NCAA Division I basketball court. How many high school kids get that experience?

Sitting at home in Murfreesboro last Friday before the Group A championship game, I did a little research on the Franklin team. Until I sat down and really thought about it, I didn’t realize what a superlative season they had. Consider these facts:

n Before Saturday’s championship game, Franklin had an 18-game winning streak.

n Until Saturday, the Lady Broncos’ lone loss was to Greensville County on Dec. 19. Since that game, Franklin had won every game by double digits and by no less than 12 points.

n Franklin’s average margin of victory in its 24 wins was 25 points.

n Franklin’s average margin of victory in the regionals and state playoffs was 26 points.

The team’s body of work stood up to just about any squad in the state.

There were no superstars on this team. At the same time, individual players stepped up at different times during the season to make the difference, whether leading the team in scoring one night, or rebounding, or working the full-court press.

I can’t say enough about Hobbs in the championship game. According to the official state box score, Hobbs played all 32 minutes.

She scored 22 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor and 8-for-8 from the free throw line. At times, Hobbs took the offensive load on her shoulders, driving to the hoop all game. Buffalo Gap could not stop her.

Holeman played 27 minutes and had one of her many double-doubles on the season with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

Keshara Bradley played 29 minutes and scored nine points.

Although Franklin played a physical style of basketball, the team never played dirty and always with dignity whether in victory or defeat.

On Friday night, I also went back to the preseason preview I wrote for the Franklin girls’ team. The end of the 2006-2007 season left a sour taste in Mona Sumblin’s mouth.

Franklin went down to defeat in the Region A quarterfinals to Northumberland last year in a foul-filled loss that the officials let get out of control. That was her driving force for this season.

“We want to win the district and try to get to the state and avenge our first round regional loss,” Sumblin said.

The teams that were pounded by Franklin this year have Northumberland to thank.

Don’t mess with Mona.

Jeff ZeigLer covers sports for The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is