Hornets two wins away from clinching East II championship

FORESTVILLE – The Forestville Hornets (8-8, 7-1) held a 26-17 lead at halftime, trailed by six midway through the fourth quarter and brought the crowd to their feet when they pulled ahead with 20 seconds left to earn a 51-47 win over the Franklinville Panthers (9-7, 5-3) Friday in CCAA East II boys basketball.

The victory puts Forestville in the driver’s seat to win the division, which is a vast improvement for a team that didn’t win a single game the season before coach Ralph Jackson took over four years ago.

The Hornets have two games remaining, both division contests, and if they win out, they will sit atop their division and enter the playoffs as the number two seed behind Sherman, the state’s number-one ranked Class D school.

After going cold to start the final quarter, Forestville found itself trailing 45-39 with approximately four minutes left in the game.

Over the next three minutes, Dylan Szumigala scored five points on three consecutive possessions to bring the score to 47-44.

On the Hornets’ next possession, Ryan Forbes stood wide open in the corner, received a pass and launched a 3-pointer that tied the game and electrified the home crowd.

Seconds later, the Hornets’ defense caused a turnover and two Hornets’ players raced down the floor in a two-on-one fast break situation.

On the break, Caleb Makuch received a perfectly-timed pass and laid the ball in the hoop to give Forestville a 49-47 lead.

Makuch was fouled on the basket, but was unable to convert the free throw giving the Panthers one last chance to tie or win the game.

After a timeout, Franklinville inbounded the ball and before it could get a play started, Jake Nosbisch stole the pass at the top of the key before going the length of the floor for an easy layup to seal the victory.

“I’m proud of the guys, from the seniors and juniors, all the way down to the sophomores,” Jackson said. “We pulled up a sophomore (Jackson Egan) a couple of games ago and he chipped in with five points. I’m pleased because we were up and then Franklinville came back. They kept playing, they kept fighting and they never gave up.”

Trailing by nine points at the half, Franklinville made adjustments in the third quarter and used the 3-ball to climb its way to a 37-36 lead going into the final period. The Panthers hit four 3-pointers in the third, including two from Collin Seamans to begin the quarter.

“Stop taking 3’s,” Franklinville coach Allan Dunlap said of his message to the team at halftime. “Not necessarily stop taking 3’s, but stop taking the first 3 they saw. Get the ball inside to the middle, look weak side and get better shots. Don’t take shots within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock.”

Forestville was outscored 20-10 in the third quarter and began the fourth with a 3-pointer, but went scoreless for the next four minutes of play as the Panthers slowly built a six-point lead.

Jackson called a timeout once the lead reached six points and his message to the team was simple.

“I told them they need to slow down, take care of the ball and run the offense,” Jackson said. “When they ran it and executed it, they got buckets. They started getting a little sloppy and they just needed some reminders on where the ball was supposed to go.”

The reminders worked and fortunately for the Hornets, they found their groove down the stretch and went on a 12-2 run to seal the victory.

Nosbisch finished with nine points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals. Fellow senior Wayne Hartloff added six points, seven rebounds and two blocks in the win.

“I have three seniors and unfortunately one of them is hurt right now,” Jackson said. “Jake (Nosbisch), Connor (Stone) and Wayne (Hartloff) have put in a lot of work throughout the years and it shows. They’re leaders on the team and they come to work every day. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.

“I’m just happy for the kids,” Jackson continued. “They put in the work and they’re seeing the benefits of that work,. If they don’t come to practice and they don’t prepare, then this doesn’t happen.”

Makuch had a team-high 12 points and eight rebounds for the Hornets while sophomore Jackson Egan, playing in just his third varsity game, contributed five points.

Jordan Milks led the Panthers with 16 points and Ben Erickson had 15 points in the loss.

“We came in and did what we wanted to do,” Dunlap said. “Right off the bat they pushed the ball up the floor and I felt like we did a good job controlling them in transition for most of the game. They are big, they are strong and I give them credit. They are a very good team.”

Forestville travels to North Collins on Tuesday and hosts West Valley on Thursday. The Hornets beat both teams earlier this season, 75-31 and 64-31, respectively.