With his future secure as a scholarship quarterback at Western Illinois, Franklin all-state quarterback Sean McGuire could have rested on his laurels and taken the rest of the school year off from sports, basking in the glory of the recent state finals football season.
But the 6-3, 200-pound athlete is not built that way.
He had a competitive itch he still had to scratch. He had taken last season off from basketball to concentrate on earning that grid scholarship, but wanted to get back to the hardcourt, even after the long, punishing football season.
And boy is Sabers' coach Tim Hogan and the rest of the Franklin team happy that he did. Friday night, McGuire scored 13 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, picked up two steals, blocked two shots and generally made himself a menace to archrival Oak Creek in the nightcap of the girl-boy doubleheader that the Sabers won 53-45.
His 16 rebounds marked the third consecutive game that he has reached double digits in rebounds. Hogan can't remember the last time anyone under his watch did that.
McGuire took it all in stride, even remarking "I'll try to do better next time" when some wag made a sly joke that he could work harder on the boards.
Hogan was pleased with the overall effort of the Sabers, as they won their third game in a row, evened their overall record at 3-3 and improved to 2-1 in the Southeast Conference. Oak Creek, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 in the Southeast and 3-4 overall.
"I told the kids that it's never too early to pick up quality wins," Hogan said. "You don't want to fall behind early in the season and get in the middle of the pack trying to catch up (in the conference race) or find yourself at a sectional seeding meeting (in February) looking at that bad loss you had in December.
"...This was much like our other two wins. Pressure from our defense forces teams to be uncomfortable and that leads to some easy offense for us. We did a good job of limiting them to one shot in the first half and were very disciplined defensively."
Meanwhile, Knight coach Mike Jossie was pleased with how his team rallied to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, but noted that some early lack of cohesion and discipline put Oak Creek in the hole in the first place.
It started at the beginning of the second quarter, right after a Knight player hit a 3-pointer to pull Oak Creek to within 13-10. He triumphantly pumped a fist at the large Franklin student section and then promptly picked up a technical foul for his efforts.
The Sabers' Colin Ksobiech hit both free throws and shortly thereafter, Franklin was off on a 15-4 half-finishing run that put them up 28-14 at the break.
"We lost our composure in the second quarter," said Jossie. "You just can't do that. My speech to them tonight focused on composure but we didn't have it when we needed it and that cost us."
McGuire had seven of his points in that run.
Franklin scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter, including a Nick Bobos 3-pointer and bumped the lead up to its largest point at 33-14.
That's when the Knights, led by an infusion of some its younger players off the bench, began to chip away. A 9-2 run in the middle of the third helped cut the margin to 37-24 heading into the fourth.
It would get a little more interesting in the fourth quarter as Oak Creek sophomore guard Harrison Cleary notched two, three-point plays and junior guard Jake West hit a big three, as the gap closed to 46-38 with 2:48 remaining.
But despite some shaky free throw shooting (five of 11 for the half including some missed front ends of the bonus), Franklin did enough to hang on. 6-6 post Chad Kanugh (14 points) hit a putback and then McGuire put in a lay-up for his last points of the night to make it 52-40 with 58 seconds to go.
The final score was as close it got.
"In the second half we just tried to remember that we have to play all 32 minutes to win conference games," said Hogan. "especially against a team that is as patient and disciplined as they are."
Oak Creek got 22 points from Cleary and 14 from senior Alex Medenwalt.
"We have some time off (during the holiday break)," said Jossie, "and then we expect the kids to come back focused. We have issues that are uncharacteristic with teams of mine that we have to fix, like finding the open man.
"Yes, we do have some handicaps (when it comes to height), but there are no handicaps when it comes to playing with heart. ...I was proud of our young guys tonight and now we'll work hard to find five guys who will play as a team."
Ksobiech added 12 points for Franklin while Bobos had eight. Hogan, whose team will play in the New Berlin Classic after the holiday, wants to keep building on this momentum.
"I like that we're 2-1 in (conference) and still in the race," he said. "This was a big win, it helped us stay in second place. ...We really got after it tonight and forced them to do things they didn't like."
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