Chatman scores 21 as Wildcats edge Warren East, 60-54
FRANKLIN – It went down to the wire, but Franklin-Simpson prevailed.
Hosting Warren East in a Region 4 battle on Monday evening, the Wildcats remained tough from start to finish and were able to hold off a physical Raiders team for a hard-fought 60-54 win at Franklin-Simpson High School.
The victory marked Franklin’s first of the 2018-19 season.
“They got the goose egg off the board, so that makes things a little easier – but we’ve still got a long way to go,” Franklin-Simpson head coach Dee Spencer said. “I’m happy that the guys got to finish it.”
DeMarco Chatman scored a game-high 21 points for the Wildcats (1-3), while Andreyous Miler finished with 15 and Jevon Covington added 12 to give Franklin three players in double figures. In addition to that trio, Tedric Partinger tallied six points.
Warren East led 17-13 at the end of the first quarter, but Franklin-Simpson rallied back to lead 26-25 at halftime. The Wildcats took a 41-37 advantage into the fourth and were able to keep the Raiders from getting back in front.
“It feels good to get over that hump,” Chatman said of the win. “We were 0-3; it feels good to get that first win. Now I think we can get going.”
The two sides went back-and-forth over the course of the first 16 minutes.
Franklin-Simpson jumped out to an 8-3 lead at the 5:50 mark of the opening quarter, but Warren East closed the period on a 14-5 run to hold a 17-13 advantage after one. Mikiah Vondracek was already up to eight points for the Raiders, who knocked down five threes in quarter.
The Wildcats rallied in the first minutes of the second to jump ahead 19-17, but Ryan Carter’s bucket off a Thomas Maxey assist helped Warren East even the scoreboard at 19-all at the 4:23 mark.
“In the first half, we attacked gaps against the zone and got the ball in the corner and got the ball rotated, and the result of that was wide open shots that we were making,” Warren East head coach Brandon Combs said. “Shots started falling for us Saturday – and they fell in the first half.”
East and Franklin exchanged scores throughout the final stretch, and the Wildcats held a tight 26-25 lead at the break. Chatman and Vondracek had each scored eight points for their respective teams at that point.
Vondracek carried Warren East (3-3) with 12 points, while Carter and Adante Barber each finished with nine.
It continued to be a close contest throughout the second half.
Warren East knotted it up at 37-all with two minutes left in the third quarter before Chatman’s three from the right corner put Franklin-Simpson back in front at 38-37 just a minute later. A transition layup from Carlos McKinney shortly after gave the Wildcats a 41-37 lead entering the final period.
“It’s always good when you can do that,” Spencer said in regards to making plays down the stretch. “We’re learning. We’ve still got a bunch of young guys. They’re learning how to win, and we finally got over that hump.”
A bucket from Chatman on a runner down the right side of the lane put Franklin-Simpson up 44-43 at the 5:53 mark of the fourth. Covington’s layup with 3:32 left pushed the Wildcats’ advantage to 50-47 – just before Miller’s score made it 54-48 with just over a minute to go.
Chatman’s pair of free throws extended Franklin’s lead to 56-51 with 36.4 seconds left – and it was able to hold on from there for a much-needed victory.
“It helps out a lot,” said Chatman of the momentum Monday’s win gives he and his team. “We just had to slow down, keep our pace and just close out the game.”
Warren East returns to action Tuesday in a 7:30 p.m. road test at Allen County-Scottsville. Franklin-Simpson will be back on the court Thursday at Warren Central in the inaugural 2A Classic. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.