Spartans upset No. 1 Franklin

Bainbridge forward Michael Stevenson drives in a layup in second quarter action against the Franklin Quakers Tuesday. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Bainbridge forward Michael Stevenson drives in a layup in second quarter action against the Franklin Quakers Tuesday.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

With six seconds remaining and the score tied in the BHS boys’ basketball game Tuesday night against Franklin, Paul Weese elevated just beyond the three-point arc, midway between the end line and the top of the key. Moments later the ball dropped cleanly through the basket and Paski gymnasium erupted as the Spartans knocked off the previously undefeated Quakers, 62-60.

Arguably the top team in the state, Franklin had won four games during the holiday break en route to winning a big-time tournament in Kentucky. They the dominated Garfield, the state’s top-ranked 4A team, by 15 points. And last Friday they defeated Rainier Beach, considered by many to be the Quakers’ main competition for the 3A state title.

And, oh yes, they were ranked No. 16 in USA Today’s Super 25.

None of that glitter mattered to the Spartans, who now find themselves a half game behind Beach in the Metro League’s Sound Division. Should they beat West Seattle at home tonight, and Bishop Blanchet next Tuesday on the road, they would find themselves in the position of hosting Beach next Friday for what could be the division title – an unimaginable prospect after being dismantled 84-39 by the Vikings in mid-December.

“Fourth game of the season, new coach, new system,” said coach Steve Henderson, in explaining the team’s turnaround since then.

“We’ve been improving every day,” he said. “We put together a game plan (for Franklin) and the guys executed it perfectly. It’s a big win but no bigger than any other win. It only counts as one game. We still have to take care of business.”

While one might be tempted to call the outcome a case of David beating Goliath, the analogy doesn’t completely hold. For one thing, apart from the Beach debacle, Bainbridge’s other three losses have come by a combined total of six points. The Spartans came into the game riding a six-game winning streak and now have an 8-2 Metro record, 10-4 overall.

Physically, Bainbridge enjoyed a significant height advantage. For example, the Quakers’ 6-1 guard Peyton Siva, a Louisville recruit, jumped center against the Spartans’ 6-10 Ben Eishenhardt. The Spartans pulled down 36 rebounds to the Quakers’ 16, certainly one of the keys to the win.

The Quakers took an early 10-5 lead, but Ryan Burris put the Spartans on top 11-10 with 90 seconds left in the first quarter. Though Franklin regained the lead with 14 seconds remaining, Weese then drained a trey to put Bainbridge ahead 14-12.

The Spartans scored three hoops in just over a minute midway through the second quarter to go up 27-18, but the Quakers closed to within 27-24 after an apparent basket by Will DiIorio was waved off and the Spartan guard was whistled for his third foul. This infraction was among a number of calls that raised the ire of the home crowd and Henderson.

A Burris tipin – giving him 10 for the quarter and 16 for the half – at the buzzer put Bainbridge on top 33-27.

Eisenhardt’s trey early in the third quarter put the Spartans up 40-31, and later a DiIorio putback gave the Spartans their biggest lead at 47-37. The two points also proved to be the only points not scored by Eisenhardt, Weese and Burris.

By then, however, the Quakers were in full-press mode, and scored seven points to narrow the score to 49-46 at the break. They pulled even at 51-51 at the 6:14 mark, but Eisenhardt responded with three hoops in the next two minutes to put Bainbridge up 57-51.

Moments later another Spartan basket was waved off and DiIorio picked up his fifth foul.

But Chris Holmes, Franklin’s leading scorer with 15 points, soon was similarly disqualified. Eisenhardt made both free throws to give the Spartans a 59-56 lead with 2:44 remaining. A Quaker trey 20 seconds later knotted the score.

At that point the game became somewhat ragged, with both teams turning the ball over and Bainbridge missing two free throws. The key call in the game came when Franklin was whistled for traveling with 34.3 seconds remaining.

The Spartans withstood Quaker pressure and, with the clock winding down, Jimmy Baggett fed Weese with a perfect pass for a 62-59 lead. Even then the game wasn’t secure. Weese inadvertently fouled Siva, the Metro League’s second-leading scorer. Siva scored his only second-half point to narrow the score to two points, then deliberately missed his second. The ploy didn’t work when Eisenhardt grabbed the rebound and BHS students rushed the floor to embrace the team.

“I was open and just put it up,” Weese said of his clutch shot. “I never felt like this before.”

“We knew we could compete with them,” Eisenhardt added.

He credited Henderson with keeping them focused on the game when Franklin tied the score and appeared to have momentum. “Coach said, ‘Hey, that’s just our little hiccup.’ We knew we could get this one. We have faith in each other.”

Eisenhardt downplayed his second-half outburst, in which he was virtually perfect from the field. “My teammates did a good job of finding me,” he said.

Eisenhardt led all scorers with 25 points, 19 coming in the second half. Weese finished with 19 as he continued his torrid scoring streak – 57 points in his last three games after scoring 66 in the first 10.

Weese, who also played solid defense against Siva, has emerged as the team’s fourth scoring threat along with Eisenhardt, Burris and DiIorio to give the Spartans one of the league’s most balanced scoring attacks.

Burris finished with 16, while DiIorio had seven of the team’s 16 assists and hauled down eight rebounds.

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