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Franklin Trusted its Training in Beating Chesnut Ridge to Move into PIAA Final Eight

Damon Curry had a team-high 25 points for Franklin Wednesday. Here he shoots a free throw. Photo by Richard Sayer of Eight & 322

MONROEVILLE, Pa. – Trust your training.

That was Franklin coach Jason Fulmer’s major advice to his team as they entered the final quarter of Wednesday night’s game with a one-point lead over Chestnut Ridge.

For the next eight minutes of play, the Knights battled the Lions but kept their cool even when the threes wouldn’t fall and Chestnut Ridge put on a full-court press. They held on and came out victorious, 64-57, in the second round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs at Gateway High School in Monroeville.

It is the third time in four years Franklin has reached the quarterfinals.

“It’s a hell of an accomplishment,” Fulmer said.


But getting there wasn’t easy Wednesday at Gateway High School.

The team, and many of the fans, found themselves hung up on the turnpike due to downed powerlines giving the Knights 30 fewer minutes to prep for the game once they arrived at 5:15 p.m.

Fulmer said the players were out of sync a bit as the game started.

“It was a little bit ugly, a lot of distractions, a lot of interruptions,” Fulmer said.

This led to some walking calls, bad passes, and even players bumping into each other.


Despite the struggles, Franklin’s training pulled them through the tight contest that had the teams consistently within seven points of each other.

Franklin led 21-18 after one and held a similar lead at the half at 36-33.

In the third, Chestnut Ridge showed how it earned its spot in the top 16 across the state.

Carried predominantly by senior Nate Whysong and his game-high 31 points, the Lions closed the gap to one point by the end three at 46-45.

Chase Whysong hit for two to open the fourth and Franklin trailed for the first time in the half.

Damon Curry and Jalen Wood answered with a basket each and everyone was in full fight mode to win the game.

Jalen Wood looks to make a play on Wednesday. Photo by Richard Sayer of Eight & 322

Franklin attempted to control the game with 3s but unlike the first half, they couldn’t get them to fall.

“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” Fulmer said.

What they could do was stay tough on defense and rely on their training to push back against the pressure from the Lions.


Franklin broke a 52-all tie with the shot by Damarco Payne with slightly more than three minutes to go.

Damarco Payne battles inside during Wednesday’s Franklin win. Photo by Richard Sayer of Eight & 322

From there, the margin grew a little at a time as Chestnut Ridge had to foul to save time on the clock. Near the two-minute mark, Cole Buckley hit a jumper and added a plus one.

The remainder of Franklin’s points came from the free-throw line.

Curry, who was at the line twice in the last 30 seconds, said the moment was routine for him.

“(You) just want to knock ‘em down,” Curry said.

Curry led the Knight’s offense with 25 points, including 11 in the opening stanza. Also contributing on offense was Demarco Payne with 13, Wood with 11, Buckley with 10, Gavin Eakin with three, and Dreyden Payne with two.

Cole Buckley had 10 points in the win for Franklin. Photo by Richard Sayer of Eight & 322

“We had an opportunity to control the game late,” Fulmer said of his players going eight for 11 at the line down the stretch. “We had guys hit foul shots- that’s big.”

Now the Knights set their sights on Deer Lakes, who defeated Forest Hills 67-51. The two will meet on Saturday at a time and place to be determined. The Lancers are the WPIAL champions and went to the state title game last year, finishing second. The game is slated for Saturday, March 16, at a site and time to be announced.

Editor’s note: This story and accompanying photos are part of an agreement between the YDL Sports Network and Eight & 322. Check out Eight & 322 here. 


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