MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Statistics can be weird at times. They can be telling.
A few stats in Booker T. Washington’s 72-54 rout of Boyd-Buchanan in the TSSAA Class A boys’ state basketball tournament on Wednesday told the game’s story.
The Warriors’ Jermarcus Franklin, a 6-foot senior went 2-of-10 from the floor. Not much to write home about.
Booker T.’s second-leading scorer against the Bucs, was as lethal as a rattlesnake from the free-throw line though.
Franklin made 16 of 19 from the stripe and outscored the Bucs’ leading scorer, Hall Allen, by two points.
“That’s a great stat,” Bucs coach Cole Rose said afterwards. “No comment other than to say it doesn’t happen that much in high school basketball.”
Rose then thought about the disparity in free-throw shooting and added a few more remarks.
“Fouls were certainly a big part of this game,” he said. “Thirty-two (Franklin) handled the ball about 90 or 95 percent of the time for them, and he should. He did a good job initiating contact and the way high school basketball is called, it’s almost an automatic call that he’s going to get fouled.”
Franklin got fouled a lot.
Boyd-Buchanan did not.
The 10th-ranked Warriors (27-7), according to coachT.com’s website, made 34 of 43 free throws in the game. They outscored the Bucs (28-4), suffering their first loss to a team outside the Chattanooga city limits this season, shot nine times from the charity stripe.
Nothing charitable about that.
Booker T went 30 of 26 in the second half and Franklin went 14 of 15 after halftime, including expanding the Warriors lead by hitting 13 of 14 in the fourth quarter. In one stretch, Franklin made 13 in a row while Booker T. turned the game into a lopsided ouster for the Bucs.
“We work hard on free throws,” Franklin said. “We spend the last 20 minutes of practice shooting them. I take pride in my free-throw shooting. I started off slow scoring today, but coach (Antonio Harris) told me to pick it up and I’d either start scoring or they would foul me and I could make some free throws.”
That’s not a foreign way for Franklin to score.
Against Craigmont during the season, Franklin scored 33 points and went 18 for 19 from the free-throw line.
Franklin’s accuracy and that of his teammates didn’t escape notice of Boyd-Buchanan’s Austin Walker, the Bucs’ leading scorer who was held to five points – a 3-pointer that found the range with 4:25 left in the second quarter and a layup off a steal with 1:04 remaining in the game.
“Free throw shooting was something very positive for Booker T. Washington,” said Walker, who played the final competitive basketball game of his career. “They stopped the clock and were still scoring off a lot of easy shot. A free throw is about the easiest shot you can take.
“I do think they shot more than they should have. Thirty-two shot a ton.”
Walker, the Bucs’ leading scorer with a 13.4-point average coming into the state tournament, got off just nine shots and made two. He was 1 of 4 from behind the 3-point line.
Did the Warriors target Walker?
“We knew Boyd-Buchanan wouldn’t beat themselves and they had some good shooters,” Harris said. “We had to play good, solid help defense and use our height advantage. But once they hit a couple of 3s early we had to get up closer on them and chase them off the line.”
So, was Walker targeted?
“No,” Harris would say later.
Walker had another opinion of the Warriors’ defensive strategy.
“They had a guy (not always the same one) face-guarding me the whole game with a hand on my chest,” Walker said. “We’ve got other guys who can score, so that didn’t bother me. I wasn’t frustrated by not getting shots. It was just the whole situation.”
The Bucs, who had won seven straight and 16 of their last 17 to earn a trip to Murfreesboro, averaged 61.7 points in their six previous postseason games, but finished about seven under that norm against the cat-quick Booker T. defense.
Conversely, Boyd-Buchanan ranks third in state in scoring defense, allowing 43.8 points per game. The Warriors beat that statistic by 28 points. They had 45 points with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
The 72 points allowed was a season-high for the Bucs. The previous high was 64 points given up to Heritage in the Bucs’ six-point victory on Nov. 23.
“Those 72 points were inflated by all the free throws,” Rose said.
Tyner, which plays East Nashville on Thursday in the Class AA portion of the state tournament at Middle Tennessee State University, scored 56 points to beat the Bucs by 16 in a Christmas tournament championship game at Chattanooga State.
But Walker felt like the defenses of Tyner and Booker T. caused Boyd-Buchanan plenty of problems.
Tyner cut off our plays and we couldn’t finish many of them,” he said. “Booker T. Washington did the same thing today and did a great job defensively.”
Rose said Central, which dealt the Bucs two of their three regular-season losses, copied that strategy pretty well, too.
“Those are the three toughest teams we played this year,” he said.
Now, Walker puts basketball in the rear-view mirror. He will attend Chattanooga State to get core classes out of the way before heading off to a four-year school.
He won’t play basketball at the next level.
“I’m going to get an education,” he said. “This was my last game ever. I’m not mad about that. I had a great career. I came in at Boyd-Buchanan last year and they accepted me right away. I’m grateful for that. Now I’m going to work for a degree in business.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)