Broncos repeat as district tourney champs

Published 6:28 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Franklin High School’s varsity boys basketball team routed Surry County High School and then recorded upset victories over Greensville County High School and Brunswick High School on its way to repeating as the Tri-Rivers District Tournament champion.

Keeping the momentum going in the Region 1B Tournament, the No. 5 Broncos upset No. 4 Rappahannock County High School 66-61 in the quarterfinals Tuesday, Feb. 20, to advance to the semifinals where they will face No. 1 Carver College and Career Academy at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22, at Meadowbrook High School in North Chesterfield.

The Broncos opened up their run in the district tournament on Feb. 5 with a 73-21 quarterfinal victory over visiting Surry County.

“The boys played a phenomenal game from start to finish against the Cougars,” Franklin Head Coach Robby Cutchins said. “Some of the younger guys really stepped up on both ends of the floor for us in this game.”

Leading the way for the Broncos was junior Christian Grant, who had a career game, finishing with a career-high 28 points to go with eight steals and five rebounds.

In the semifinals on Feb. 7, Franklin visited Greensville County, a team it had lost to twice during the regular season. This time was a very different story, though; the Broncos prevailed 58-40.

“I think it was three key factors to turn things around to put ourselves in the position we did to be able to knock off the Eagles,” Cutchins said. “Buying into something we haven’t done all season defensively was the No. 1 factor. 

“Everybody had to buy in because we knew we had to win this game from the defensive side of the equation because the Eagles are one of the higher-scoring teams in the state in (Class 2),” he continued. “The boys bought in, and their confidence was the next factor which grew tremendously with preparation and throughout the game, ultimately holding Greensville to their second-lowest scoring output of the season, only second to their contest against Maury High School out of Norfolk. 

“The final factor was execution,” he said. “We were able to execute the game plan defensively, which allowed us to also be much more patient on the offensive side of the ball as well. Just a tremendous effort against a really good basketball team.”

Franklin was led by senior Chaevon Torrance, who ended up with 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Hosting the district tournament championship game Friday, Feb. 9, was Brunswick, a team that the Broncos had faced three times during the regular season. The Broncos beat the host Bulldogs 60-58 on Dec. 13, lost at home 79-77 on Dec. 29 and lost at home 61-59 on Jan. 24.

“This is one of the craziest stat lines I have seen in all my years of coaching,” Cutchins said. “I told everybody in our program — players and coaches — I had never seen three games played between two teams with a total point differential of two points. This was simply mind-blowing, but on the flip side, it has provided a lot of basketball excitement for everybody involved.”

He said that coming off the huge upset of Greensville two nights prior, his team had the confidence it needed to try to pull off yet another upset on the road against a great Brunswick Bulldog squad.

“The game plan and preparation was very similar to what we used for the Greensville game, however, we had that bit of confidence that we needed now, seeing it all play out and the plan executed,” he said. “Losing close games to these squads earlier in the season taught us a lot and I feel prepared us for any adversity we were going to face. Coming into the district tournament, we had won five straight, and winning two in a row in the district tournament got us to seven in a row, which gave us a ton of confidence in the way we were not only playing but how we were executing game plans as well.”

Torrance finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Senior Kaden Bailey contributed 16 points, and junior Altavis Turner pulled down 10 rebounds, with seven of them being notably impactful on the offensive boards.

“As I said after the Greensville game, I believe in my boys!” Cutchins said, describing his reaction to the Broncos winning the title. “We had an extremely tough schedule that was put together this season, obviously with the district schedule, but with our out-of-district schedule, facing some really tough competition that was ultimately supposed to prepare us for postseason play. Battling adversity in some of those games throughout the year mentally prepared us for the postseason.

“Our games with Brunswick this season have been a game of runs by both teams, so I told the boys this game would be no different,” he said. “We were able to do a heck of a job defensively, holding them to 18 points in the first half. 

“But the third quarter was all Brunswick, with some foul trouble we were facing and some ill-advised turnovers and really didn’t shoot it as well in the third as we did in the first half,” he continued. “However, the boys battled and answered the bell by executing brilliantly in the fourth quarter to get the job done and bring the hardware back to Franklin. 

“I’m so proud of all of our boys for all of the hard work they put in trying to prepare for these games,” Cutchins said. “The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job and also I want to say thank you to ‘Bronco Nation,’ who has been a staple in having our backs and supporting the boys this season and so far throughout the postseason. Seeing all those fans there celebrating with the team after victory is what it is all about.” 

The coach added, “My wife says it makes me sound old when I say this, but it just simply warms my heart to see what sports can do for people of all ages and how it brings people together. The joy and the love is what it’s all about! I’m just so grateful to be a part of it with so many great people.”

Cutchins said the seedings for the Region 1B Tournament are still unknown since a handful of teams in the region will not finish their seasons until the middle of this week.

“So by Thursday the 15th we will know where we are headed,” he said.