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Franklin’s Attack Mode Sinks WPIAL Champion Deer Lakes; Rematch with Girard Awaits in Semifinals

Cole Buckley soars to towards the hoop Saturday as Deer Lake's Billy Schaeffer tries to defend. Buckley had a game-high 24 points. Photo by Richard Sayer of

SHARON, Pa. – Like a submarine on the prowl of a convoy, the Franklin boys’ basketball team found itself in attack mode Saturday afternoon in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals against WPIAL champion Deer Lakes.

And in the end, the D10 runner-up Knights torpedo the defending Western Region champs, 83-66.

“Offensively we attacked it,” Franklin head coach Jason Fulmer said. “We attacked their press. We attacked everything that they brought at us. In the first half, we were in attack mode. That’s where we are at. It’s a lot harder to play defense when the offense is coming at you, especially when we have athletes like we’ve got.”

Franklin’s bench, including head coach Jason Fulmer far left, reacts during the win over Deer Lakes Saturday. Photo by Richard Sayer of

Franklin (23-5) attacked from the outset scoring 20 first-quarter points and 39 first-half tallies led by Cole Buckley who scored 11 second-quarter points, 13 first-half points, and 24 total points.


“I was just rising to the occasion, really,” Buckley said. My coaches have just been telling me to attack, attack, attack. Honestly, at the beginning of the season, I was playing too passively. Today, I was feeling like my old self. It just felt great to be back.”

Franklin’s depth shone in the first half, as the Knights played without two starters – Dreyden Payne and Damon Curry – for most of the second quarter after both picked up two fouls. Payne’s second was actually in the first quarter while Curry’s came with 6:27 left in the second quarter. Neither returned in the half.

“We have to watch ourselves,” Fulmer said. “We aren’t super deep. Today we got on the bench and dudes stepped up.”

One of the “dudes” who stepped up was Will Findlan.

The junior scored 10 points, including six in the first half, while also grabbing five rebounds.


“I just felt like I was ready,” Findlan said. “I knew I was going to have to come in and play today. I got a little surprised when Dreyden got those fouls, but I was ready.”

Fulmer couldn’t say enough about Findlan.

“It doesn’t matter what he ended up with,” Fulmer said. “I mean, he has played impactful, impactful minutes.”

Up 15 at halftime, Franklin was well aware that Deer Lakes, who lost in last year’s PIAA title game to West Catholic, wasn’t going to go away without a fight.

But it was the Knights who took the first big swing of the second half.

A 21-8 run to start the half, which included back-to-back baskets by Buckley at the start of the half, put Franklin on the verge of the Mercy Rule up 28, 60-32.

Jalen Wood track down the ball during Saturday’s quarterfinal win for Franklin. Wood finished with 16 points. Photo by Richard Sayer of

“Most teams that trail at halftime are going to come out, good teams, and start out the third quarter hot,” Fulmer said. “We got fortunate enough where we were still in go mode looking to score. We scored right out of the side out, then we got another basket and it just got us rolling.”

Deer Lakes (23-5), though, wasn’t about to be Mercy Ruled.

The Lancers got a big bucket from Billy Schaeffer to take that possibility off the table for the moment and that started a 9-2 run that seemed to give Deer Lakes some steam heading to the fourth quarter down 23, 64-41.


Deer Lakes kept coming and had the deficit down to 17, 69-52, following a 3-pointer by Schaeffer with 5:27 to play.

And when Schaeffer hit a triple and Collin Rodgers scored on an old-school 3-point play with 1:54 to play the Lancer faithful had some hope down 13, 75-62.

“When we start playing fast, we play fast and free,” Fulmer said. “Sometimes, it gets a little ugly. The ball gets flying around. But that is what we have done for the last four years. We understand we are going to turn it over a few times. But the other part is we are going to be impactful with the ball through the cylinder.”

Still up 13, 77-64, after two Rodgers free throws with 1:19 to play, Buckley put the game away with a soaring layup with 1:10 left, and the Knights then hit 4 of 6 free throws in the final 55.8 seconds.

“It feels amazing,” Buckley said. “We worked for this all our lives. We were always checking Twitter after our season was over and (thinking) man we could have been there. Now we are there. We are excited.”

The “there” Buckley was talking about is the PIAA semifinals. It is a place Franklin hasn’t been under Fulmer despite getting to the quarterfinals three times in the last four years. A place the Knights haven’t been since winning the school’s second state championship in 2006 in Class 3A under the old four-class system.

“To get over that hump is a big deal, right?” Fulmer said. “These guys are the ones who experienced it, every step of the way. I feel a little bit of getting a monkey off our back. I am excited to see what is in for us next round.”

What is in for the Knights is a District 10 title-game rematch with Girard.

The Yellow Jackets ended Franklin’s hopes of a fourth straight D10 crown, 60-50, on March 1 at PennWest Edinboro.

That loss snapped a 13-game win streak for the Knights and was one of just two losses since Dec. 19, the other being to Class 2A semifinalist Aliquippa.

“(The loss) fueled us,” Buckley said. “We needed that, especially since we had been winning for a long time. We get complacent sometimes. We get too big of a head. But that really grounded us, and we knew we needed to go to work to improve.”

Watch Buckley and Findlan’s postgame interview powered by Cole Orthodontic Associates.

The semifinal contest will be on Tuesday, March 19, at a site and time to be announced.



Score by Quarters

Franklin 20 19 25 19 – 83
Deer Lakes 10 14 17 25 – 66


Damarco Payne 3 2-2 10, Gavin Eakin 0 0-0 0, Cole Buckley 10 4-5 24, Jalen Wood 5 4-6 16, Will Findlan 5 0-0 10, Jameson Wofford 0 0-0 0, Dreyden Payne 3 0-0 6, Damon Curry 5 5-8 17, Dariuis Graham 0 0-0 0. Totals 31 15-21 83.


Collin Rodgers 6 3-4 16, Aiden Fletcher 3 4-5 10, Billy Schaeffer 4 5-7 16, Nathaniel Moore 6 1-8 13, Wayne Love 2 1-1 5, J.T. McCue 2 0-0 4, Colby Sutch 0 0-0 0, Lcuca Mangieri 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 14-25 66.

Three-pointers: Franklin 6 (Damarco Payne 2, Wood 2, Curry 2). Deer Lakes 4 (Schaeffer 3, Rodgers 1).


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