ONEONTA — When a team features the second highest scorer in Section Four basketball history, it’s easy to overlook what that squad is doing on the defensive end of the floor.
But a strange thing happened on the way to Franklin’s third straight Tri-Valley League girls championship Saturday at Oneonta State. The Purple Devils defended at a high level and that, as much as anything, led to a 45-27 victory over Milford.
Sure, standout point guard Jordan Beers scored 20 points and fellow senior Marisa Cawley powered her way to 18 more, but this unbeaten Franklin squad had a different look to it.
Even last season as it compiled a 19-1 record that included the program’s first sectional title, defense almost appeared to be a nuisance at times. It was something that had to be done until the Purple Devils regained possession and the real fun could resume.
“We’re all about our defense now,” said Cawley, a much more confident and smooth player at both ends of the floor this season. “We’re more compact in the paint and we’re a lot better this year on defense.”
The numbers support Cawley.
Franklin permitted opponents to score 45 points or more six times last season, including a season-ending 51-46 loss to Oriskany in a Class D state quarterfinal. The Purple Devils held foes to 30 points or fewer five times a season ago.
This season, one team has scored more than 45 points and the Purple Devils have held opponents to 30 points or fewer nine times.
“It makes a difference for us because we know if we’re having a poor shooting night, our defense will step up,” said Beers, whose 2,355 varsity points are second in Section Four history to 2011 Harpursville graduate Hannah Kimmel, who finished with 2,692.
Perhaps the play that best describes Franklin’s commitment to defense came with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half. Milford’s Emilie Mertz attempted what initially looked like an uncontested layup, but Cawley slid to her left before swatting Mertz’s shot off the court.