Broncos maintain high standards

Published 2:50 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Franklin High School’s varsity boys basketball team has a high standard to meet thanks to the outstanding performance of its 2022-23 squad, but three games into the 2023-24 season, the Broncos have been showing they are equal to the task.

They improved to 3-0 on Monday evening, Dec. 4, with a definitive 68-35 home win over rival Southampton High School in front of a packed crowd at Peggy H. Wilkins Gymnasium.

“It was a great overall team effort tonight,” Franklin Head Coach Robby Cutchins said. “I’ve always said when these two squads get together you can completely throw everything out the window. It’s a lot of emotions for the young men of both programs that go into it simply because most of them know each other, compete against each other all the time or for that matter some are even related.”

“I told our boys before the game I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this rivalry either as a player or as a coach for 25-plus years, and it’s the greatest rivalry in high school sports,” he continued. “I told our coaches after the game you have to tip your hat to the Indians because this is a solid Indian squad that will make some noise this year as the season progresses. They came out ready to play from the opening tip tonight and did some really good things both offensively and defensively in the first quarter.”

The Broncos trailed for stretches of the first quarter but managed to tie the game 14-14 on a shot to end the period.

Then in the second quarter, Franklin pulled away, shutting out Southampton to establish a 29-14 lead by halftime.

“The defensive intensity in the second quarter was obviously the difference-maker for us,” Cutchins said. “I was proud of the way the boys battled adversity early and battled back to control the tempo the rest of the way.”

Leading the Broncos’ efforts on the court was senior Chaevon Torrance, who finished with a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Christian Grant had his biggest statistical outing of the season thus far, contributing 18 points, nine rebounds and seven steals, while senior Kaden Bailey also made his presence known on both ends of the floor with nine points and nine steals.

Franklin began the night just prior to the start of the game by unveiling one of its 2022-23 accomplishments — it was the champion of the Tri-Rivers District.

The ’22-’23 Broncos went 14-0 in regular season district play and ultimately won both the Tri-Rivers regular season and tournament championships. The Broncos compiled an overall season record of 24-4, finishing as the Region 1B runner-up and advancing as far as the Virginia High School League Class 1 state quarterfinals. The state tournament appearance was their first in 14 years.

Franklin lost some key players from the ’22-’23 squad due to graduation, including four-year starting point guard Derrick Perry and starters Jordan Myrick and Solomon Moody.

But much of the squad is back on a ’23-’24 team that features six juniors, five seniors, one sophomore and one freshman.

Cutchins said that Torrance, a returning all-state honoree and Region 1B Player of the Year, is “a huge piece of the puzzle, and we expect tremendous things out of him this season.”

The other principal leader Cutchins identified for this season’s team is Bailey, who was also an all-region first team player last year and is now a four-year starter and three-year team captain. Cutchins said Bailey “brings the motor and energy to this squad that could get us back in the same spots again this season as the season plays out.”

The coach also highlighted a couple other key players.

“We are also looking for huge things out of our third-year player Kamarre Hicks, who averaged about 15 minutes a game last season,” Cutchins said. “He came a long way this offseason as well, so he will play a huge role for us.” 

Cutchins noted that Grant is stepping into the point guard role and “will come into his own as the season progresses, but he has a very high ceiling and will be a difference-maker for us.”

The Broncos opened the season Friday, Dec. 1, with a 62-56 win on the road against Lakeland High School, a VHSL Class 3 school.

“I thought it was a huge win for us out of the gate against a very quick and athletic Lakeland squad,” Cutchins said. “We were up 12 points after the first quarter and down by seven points to start the fourth quarter. So it was all Lakeland in the second and third quarters and all Broncos in the first and final frame. We turned up our defensive intensity big in the fourth quarter led by all-state player Chaevon Torrance.”

Torrance led all scorers and rebounders in the game with 26 points and 14 boards to go with five steals.

Bailey contributed 11 points and seven rebounds, and Hicks chipped in seven points, eight boards and four blocks.

The Broncos played again the next night when they hosted the Virginia HoopFest Showcase Series. They closed out the Saturday, Dec. 2, event with a 67-44 home-opening win over Middlesex High School.

Cutchins said it was another overall great team effort from the Broncos, particularly as they were coming off what he described as a “four-quarter heavyweight match the night before against Lakeland.”

He said, “It was obvious we were still a little gassed from the previous night. We led by three points at the half but made defensive adjustments that got the juices flowing a little better in the second half. Middlesex is a really good basketball team that is also coming off of a state tournament appearance last season coming out of Region 1A.”

Cutchins had notable praise for the performances of Torrance and Grant.

“Once Chaevon was able to match his level of play from the previous night, everybody around him got better, which assisted in him having a huge night all the way around,” Cutchins said. “We got great floor facilitation from our new floor general Christian Grant, who really made our offense click in the second half as well. He also stepped up and hit some huge shots for us.”

Torrance finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, five blocks and three steals, and Grant contributed 10 points, five assists and three steals.

Franklin (3-0) returns to action this week when it visits Sussex Central High School on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and Greensville County High School on Friday, Dec. 8. Tipoff for both games is set for 7 p.m.