A little game of "anything you can do, I can do better" was played by the Franklin boys basketball team in its WIAA Division 1 regional game on March 3 against West Allis Central.
After trailing by the rather unlikely score of 15-11 at halftime, the Bulldogs came out sharply in the second half and rattled off 11 straight points to take a 22-15 lead with 11 minutes, 51 seconds left in the game.
The Sabers, though, saw Central's run and raised.
They immediately went on a 17-0 spree, featuring 11 points from Max Alba, to go up 32-22, and that proved to be just enough to send them toward a 36-33 victory, Franklin's first playoff triumph since 2011.
The second half began with Central's Jared Welsch netting a 3-pointer and Griffin Johnson following with a basket to put the Bulldogs ahead, 16-15.
Montae Blakely scored a basket and two free throws, and Glenn Martin drove the lane for a layup and a 22-15 Central lead.
Alba gives spark
After a timeout, the Sabers launched their big run.
"It started with our defense," coach Tyler Podoll said. "We were just kind of letting them go through their offense. We decided to start half-court trapping, and that just elevated us and inspired us. That loosened them (the Bulldogs) up defensively, because we got steals above the free-throw line, and we got baskets in transition."
Alba got the rally started by driving the baseline for a 3-point play to put the Sabers on the board after nearly 7 scoreless minutes.
Marcus Lee connected on a shot, and Alba delivered another 3-point play and 3-point shot to put Franklin up, 26-22. Ethan Wittenburg made two free throws, Alba hit another basket and Lee scored on a break to end the 17-0 run and give the Sabers a 32-22 lead.
"Max Alba started the spark," Podoll said. "Max got the (three-point play) to break (Central's) streak, and then that rolled our 17-0 streak."
Central coach Dave Mlachnik said of the run, "They got a couple of easy ones, which got them going, and we just really never settled down to get the momentum back. We always say that there are going to be runs in a game, but we had to not let it get to 17, keep it under 10 or a 6-0 run."
Central was not done, though. Blakely scored to end Franklin's run, then Jose Cruz hit a 3-point shot from the corner, and it was 32-27.
Later, after four missed Franklin free throws, Central's Jacob Fierst, who earlier this season hit buzzer-beating game-winning shots in consecutive contests, drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 35-32 with 26 seconds left.
Franklin's Lee and Fierst both hit free throws to keep it at 36-33 with 5.1 seconds remaining. Franklin had two more misses from the line, but Central could only get off a long 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
Mlachnik was proud of his team's defensive effort on the night.
"The guys executed the game plan perfectly," the coach said. "We did a lot of really good things defensively. Offensively, we did move the ball, we got good shots, but we couldn't get anything to go down."
Blakely leads Central
Blakely led Central with 9 points, and Fierst finished with 7 points. Alba paced all scorers with 18, and Lee put in 8 for the Sabers.
"This is tough, especially when the kids came out and battled the way they did," Mlachnik said. "That's the only thing I can ask them to do, is give an effort like that. If the shots don't go down, it's hard to win. Defensively, the kids were awesome. We've got a really great senior group that has done a lot of great things for this program."
Podoll said, "This is a stepping stone for us. This is a change, and we're adding to things we need to check off."