LEXINGTON, Ky. – Defiance failed to hit a shot from the floor over the final four minutes and saw Franklin capitalize with a 12-3 run to finish the game and pull out the 73-67 win over the Jackets in the HCAC Semifinal matchup.
A Mike Floyd layup at the 4:10 mark lifted DC to a 64-61 advantage, but Defiance missed its final five shots from the floor and managed just three free throws the rest of the way.
Franklin grabbed the lead with an 8-0 run and fueled the rally with three offensive rebounds, which led to four second-chance points during the stretch. The rally put the Grizzlies up, 69-64, with 1:22 left in the game.
A free throw from Floyd stopped the spurt and a pair of freebies from Anthony Pettaway cut the deficit to 69-67 with 42 seconds left on the clock, but Jace Redman's layup with 19 seconds to play pushed the lead back to four and sent Franklin to the six-point win.
The game was decided on the boards, where Franklin was allowed to use a very physical effort to will itself back into the game. FC got eight offensive rebounds in the second half and converted them into 10 second-chance points.
The extra chances allowed Franklin to chip away at a Defiance lead which grew as high as nine points early into the second half. The Jackets closed the opening period on a 7-2 run and pushed the lead to 37-28 with a bucket from Pettaway to start the final stanza.
DC failed to shut the door however and allowed FC back into the game by turning the ball over five times during an ensuing 13-4 Franklin rally. The spurt tightened up the game for good and put the Grizzlies on top by a 44-43 margin at the 11:55 mark.
Neither team would lead by more than three points over the next 10 minutes of action, until a Jared Catron offensive board and tip-in completed FC's 8-0 run in the closing minutes and opened up the 69-64 lead with 1:30 on the clock.
Pettaway led all players with 28 points and 10 rebounds for his 31st career double-double, while Nick Sales added 15 points and eight boards. The rest of the Jackets shot well, connecting on seven-of-15 attempts from the field but only added 24 points. Floyd and Heath Armstrong did most of that damage by combining for 17 points.
Barring an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, Defiance will end the 2008-2009 campaign with an 18-9 record. The 18 victories give DC 37 wins over the past two years and 54 victories in the past three seasons. The 54 wins mark the best three-year run for a Defiance squad since the Purple and Gold racked up 59 victories from 1988-1990.