Fourth quarter dooms Lady Broncos in title bid

Published 11:29 am Thursday, March 12, 2009

A rough fourth quarter spelled doom for the Franklin girls’ basketball team in its quest for a state championship Thursday.

Leading in the final period, the Lady Broncos could not get buckets to fall at the end of the game and fell 56-47 to Buffalo Gap in the Group A Division 1 state semifinals at the Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Franklin finished the season with a 22-4 record.

The two teams battled throughout the game without either taking more than a 5-point lead in the first three quarters. Franklin opened the fourth quarter with a 6-point run and took a 41-39 lead at 4:52 on a drive by Sharmese Fleetwood. But Buffalo Gap went on a 15-2 run over a 3½-minute span to close out the victory. Franklin’s shots would just not fall.

Mona Sumblin, Franklin head coach, blasted the officiating in the postgame press conference.

“I’m very frustrated to get to this level and to have the inconsistency of calls we had in the ball game,” she said. “Yes, we missed key layups and too many free throws, but we’ve got to get key calls at the time we need to get them. We asked our girls to penetrate and take it to the hole. We get bumped and we get nothing. We go to the other end and the same situations happen, and we get fouled. I don’t appreciate that at all.”

Franklin attempted two fewer free throws than Buffalo Gap.

Last year’s run to the state championship game, also against Buffalo Gap, helped the Lady Broncos play confidently at the beginning of the game, despite a distinct height disadvantage. Keshara Bradley led the Franklin offense in the first quarter with seven points as the two teams found themselves deadlocked at 15-15.

Buffalo Gap’s veteran forward Sara Lamneck, who scored 10 points in the first quarter, committed her third foul early in the second quarter, but it did not slow down the Bison. Despite Franklin taking an 18-15 lead to open the second quarter on a 3-point play by Kiara Lee, Buffalo Gap took a 26-24 lead on a rebound and put-back by Courtney Sanderson. Sanderson picked up the slack for Lamneck and scored six points in the second quarter.

Both teams played sloppy, missing shots and committing turnovers, to open the second half. Buffalo Gap, however, opened up the game slightly when Renee Burford and Samantha Long hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lady Bison a 33-28 lead at 4:17.

The Lady Broncos missed several opportunities to score on layups during the third quarter, but Lee got hot and canned two straight 3-pointers of her own to put the Lady Broncos back up 34-33 at the 1:59 mark.

Lamneck’s second effort bucket and free throw put Buffalo Gap back up 36-34 with 1:35 to play in the quarter. Holly Morgan followed with a 3-pointer and the Lady Bison took a 39-34 lead into the fourth quarter.

Sumblin agreed that the Lady Broncos did not take advantage of Lamneck’s foul trouble.

“We played against people who had height. We played well and we won. We didn’t play bad against height today,” Sumbllin said. “Their height got in trouble, and we should have capitalized more on that. They sent people off the bench, and they capitalized.”

Despite the height disadvantage, Franklin outrebounded Buffalo Gap 49-43. Franklin shot just 29 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the foul line.The Lady Bison were 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

Lee led Franklin in scoring with 16 points. Morgan scored 18 points and Lamneck finished with 15 points for Buffalo Gap (23-3).

Buffalo Gap head coach Chad Coffey said that Franklin had an athletic team.

“It was a struggle for the biggest portion of the game. My hat’s off to Franklin; they are a great team. They kept us on our heels. We had to do a better job in the second half. We wanted to pride ourselves on what we did all year long and play solid defense. We did that in the second half,” he said.