FHS basketball looks to continue winning season

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Dan Finnerty

Franklin High School (FHS) basketball closed out 2023 and the early part of its schedule in Georgia. As has been the case the past few years, Panther varsity basketball squads participated in the Towns County “Battle of the States” holiday season tournament. This year’s event took place Dec. 28-30 in Hiawassee, Ga. FHS varsity men’s coach Doug Plemmons was pleased with the effort put forth by the Panthers in the tournament.

“I like where we are at right now. We’ve played a pretty tough schedule to this point,” said Plemmons.

After falling to Union County, Ga., 70-66 on Dec. 28, FHS won in resounding fashion the next day over Coosa, Ga., 76-42. In the Union game, the Panthers were tied late after trailing 11 at halftime and as much as 14 in the second half.

#32 BRAYDON Hervey focuses on a defensive move against the Hayesville Jackets. Photo by Ronnie Vanhook.

“They [Union] are one of the best teams we’ve played so far,” said Plemmons, following the close loss.

A late charge, called against junior guard Max McClure, put the Union team in position to win a tight game. Their final contest of the tournament pitted the Panthers against Polk County, Tenn.’s Wildcats on Saturday, Dec. 30, where FHS won, 83-59, to bring their overall record to 8-3.

#12 REID Raby goes up for a layup. Photo by Ronnie Vanhook.

Overall, Plemmons expressed satisfaction with results so far and confidence in further success throughout the season. With seniors Cal Drake and Parker Cabe graduating last year, the team got a bit younger, with only four of the 12-man roster being seniors this year. Other than one freshman, forward William Rauers, and one sophomore, Addix Sutton, Plemmons’ team is loaded with six experienced junior players. The coach is currently rotating a trio at center, comprised of junior Braydon Hervey and seniors Jacob Gibson and Braxton Deal.

“We’ve had balanced scoring. Max [McClure], Rauers, and [junior] Noah Brannon are all averaging double digit scoring on the year, with [junior guard] Braylen Dezarn around nine points per game,” he said. 

MAX MCCLURE goes airborne to score for the Panthers. Photo by Ronnie Vanhook.

Emphasizing overall team effort being exhibited this season, the coach pointed out that while no one player stands head and shoulders above the rest, all are contributing.

“We’re playing nine players just about every [game] and with 75% of the team getting minutes in the heat of the game, I like where our team is at. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we’re in good position.”

WILLIAM RAUERS, the only freshman on the varsity team, tips a ball in during a late 2023 game. Photo by Ronnie Vanhook.

Plemmons added, “If we play together, play solid defense, and don’t turn the ball over, we have four guys that, on a given night, have scored more than 20 points in a ballgame. If we can have all four clicking together at the end of the season, we’ll be able to produce enough points to play with anyone in our league.”

As January emerges, the Panthers have 12 games left in the regular season, and 10 of those are Mountain 7 Conference (M7C) opponents.

“It’s hard to game plan against us … I think we’ve got four guys who are capable of putting up some pretty big numbers,” Plemmons concluded.

On the women’s varsity side, Coach Scott Hartbarger’s crew stands at 5-6 overall, 2-0 in the M7C. Coming off a 59-28 win over Murphy Dec. 29, at the Battle of the States, the Lady Panthers closed out the tournament losing a 62-60 heartbreaker to the Hayesville Yellow Jackets.

VARSITY LADY Panther Avery Moffitt handles the ball in the paint against the Hayesville Yellow Jackets. Moffitt leads the team in points and rebounds. Photo by Ronnie Vanhook.

Following the holiday break and a game at Andrews, FHS resumes conference play at Pisgah Jan. 5. Senior Avery Moffitt currently leads the team in points and rebounds per game (13.5/5.7), while junior Cali Queen leads in assists, steals, and blocks (5.0/4.2/1.0).

Both junior varsity (JV) squads are off to solid starts with the boys standing at 5-1. Their only loss came at the hands of East Henderson Dec. 15 (49-41) before bouncing back against Tuscola, Dec. 19, 52-16. The JV Lady Panthers are 5-1 going into the new year, but 0-1 in conference following a tough 50-49 loss vs. Tuscola Dec. 19.

ANDERSON TERRELL dribbles around an opponent in a recent game at the Panther Den. Photo by Ronnie Vanhook.

Head Coach Bekah Brooks’ team looks to build on their early success as January matures. “The girls are learning each practice and game,” she said. “Following some sickness bouts, we have overcome and are doing well – I think we need to push harder in practice in preparation for the rest of the season.”

As always, Brooks and her assistant (and husband) Josh Brooks are emphatically positive and inspirational to their team. Brooks lauded her troops heading into the meat of their schedule.

“Super excited for these girls. Goals are to be better [each day] than the day before, be in the top three for the M7C, make good grades, be a good person, and have school spirit.”

All the basketball teams began post-Christmas break play at Andrews, Jan. 3.