Franklin put seven points on the board in a hurry. Backed by a capacity crowd, the top-seeded Broncos raced out to a lead they held for the entire first quarter Friday night.
But Altavista didn’t panic. The second-seeded Colonels drew on their experience in region title games and began chipping away, getting contributions from up and down the starting lineup and bench.
By the midway point of the second quarter, they’d erased their early deficit, then used a combination of smart defensive play and ball movement on the offensive end to pull ahead for good.
The Colonels, for the third straight season, captured the Region 1B crown, downing Franklin 76-70 in a raucous road game — and handed the Broncos a loss in the region tournament for the third consecutive year.
"To go down in a place like that, I talked about our mental toughness being just as important as our physical toughness," Altavista coach Casey Johnson said in a phone interview, explaining his players' ability to stay calm and execute what they practiced was key in the win.
People are also reading…
Bolstered by their upperclassmen in junior Jayden Boyd and seniors Ryan Hart and Stuart Hunt, the Colonels upped their intensity defensively and started seeing their shots fall on the other side of the court.
Hart and Hunt combined to draw five charges in the first quarter, and the duo and Boyd each hit a triple during a run that turned their seven-point deficit at the end of the first quarter into a seven-point (37-30) halftime lead.
"That's the difference maker, to be honest with you, the whole night," Johnson said of the charges.
Altavista (20-4) fell behind 7-0 to begin the game, but the less-than-ideal start became a distant memory by the time the third quarter rolled around. The Colonels, after 24 minutes, built a 14-point lead after outscoring the Broncos 47-26 in the second and third frames.
"Just multiple guys made multiple plays," Johnson said, pointing to his players' ability to force turnovers and share the ball. "… No hesitation to throw it to the open guy." The Colonels assisted on 22 of their 30 field goals, and eight players scored.
The visitors went up by as many as 16 points, but Solomon Moody and Chaevon Torrance jumpstarted a spurt by Franklin (24-3) near the midway point of the final period.
In less than two minutes, the Broncos cut the Altavista lead in half and then pulled to within five. Moody hit three triples during the run, the last of which cut the Colonels’ advantage to 73-68. Torrance also hit a pair of free throws (his seventh and eighth in a string of his eight straight makes at the line) near the one-minute mark that made it 75-70.
Franklin got help from Altavista, too, as the Colonels missed four free throws in the final seconds. They went 7 for 20 at the charity stripe on the night.
"If we would shoot our normal 75% and go 12 of 20 from the line, then it's a 10-point game," Johnson said. "Then there is no comeback."
The hosts, though, missed each of their final three shots and committed a costly turnover that gave Altavista the chance to milk precious seconds off the clock and deprive the Broncos of the shots needed to complete the comeback.
"We kept our composure," Johnson said.
Torrance and Moody finished with 22 and 15 points, respectively. Kaden Bailey (13 points) was the other double-figure scorer for Franklin, which saw its 10-game win streak come to an end Friday.
Hunt led the Colonels with 22 points (six rebounds), Boyd had 18, and Anthony Clay (eight rebounds) finished with 12 points. Hart chipped in nine points for Altavista, which now has won eight straight. Each of the four and Nekhi Robinson had three or more assists on the night, with Hunt leading the way with seven.
Altavista will play host against Middlesex, the Region 1A runner-up, in a Class 1 state quarterfinal game March 3. Time and location have not yet been determined.
Liberty 4, Winthrop 0
Garrett Horn and four relief pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout, Cam Foster’s RBI triple capped a three-run third inning, and Liberty opened its weekend series with a win over Winthrop at Winthrop Ballpark in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Horn (1-1) scattered three hits, walked two and struck out four over five innings.
Nick Willard, Trey Cooper, Jeremy Beamon and Cole Garrett combined to allow one hit and struck out four over the final five innings. Garrett retired the final batter for his first save of the season.
The Flames (2-3) struck in the third to take the lead for good. Jake Lazzaro had an RBI single and then scored on a wild pitch. Foster followed with a triple to left-center field that scored Victor Castillo (2 for 5).
John Simmons (LCA) went 2 for 4 and added an RBI single in the eighth inning.
McKinley Erves went 2 for 4 for the Eagles (3-2).
Liberty 8, Northern Illinois 0
Karlie Keeney came within one out of a no-hitter, Sierra Kersten drove in three runs, and Liberty opened the Liberty Softball Classic with a five-inning triumph over Northern Illinois at Liberty Softball Stadium.
Keeney (1-5) faced two over the minimum in her complete-game effort. She struck out two and walked one. Cara Cruthers broke up Keeney’s no-hit bid with a two-out single in the fifth inning.
Kersten had a bases-clearing double for the Flames (2-9) in their six-run fifth inning.
Rachel Roupe hit a two-run homer to end the game.
Devyn Howard went 2 for 3 with two runs scored.
The Huskies fell to 1-6.
Region 1B Championship
Altavista 76, Franklin 70
Stuart Hunt 22, Jayden Boyd 18, Anthony Clay 12, Hart 9, Robinson 7, Garvin 4, Eades 2, Fisher 2. Totals 30 7-20 76.
Chaevon Torrance 22, Solomon Moody 15, Kaden Bailey 13, Perry 9, Myrick 7, Turner 3, Hicks 1. Totals 26 11-15 70.
3-point goals: Altavista 9 (Hunt 3, Boyd, Clay 2, Hart 2, Robinson). Franklin 7 (S. Moody 3, Bailey 2, Perry, Turner).
Highlights: A — Hunt 7 assists, 6 rebounds; Boyd 4 rebounds, 4 assists; Clay 8 rebounds, 3 assists; Hart 5 assists, 5 steals; Robinson 3 assists, 3 steals.
Next: Altavista will host Middlesex in a neutral-site game in the Lynchburg area in the Class 1 state quarterfinals March 3 (time and exact location to be determined).