METRO ATHLETIC CONFERENCE Franceschelli nets Struthers triumph
His 3-pointer with two seconds left helped the Wildcats beat Niles.
By BOB ROTH
STRUTHERS -- The Metro Athletic Conference boys basketball game Tuesday between Struthers and Niles went down to the wire at the Struthers Fieldhouse.
Fighting back from a 19-point third-quarter deficit, Niles tied Struthers at 76-76 with 17 seconds left in the game, only to have Jimmy Franceschelli's long-range 3-pointer part the net with two seconds left for a 79-76 victory for the Wildcats.
"We were looking for penetration with our guys coming off screens and Jimmy got open and hit the big shot," Struthers coach Joe Fuline said.
Before that, there were 31 minutes, 58 seconds of hectic basketball that included 56 field goals and 15 3-pointers.
Two hit 26: Jason Martin, a 6-foot-4 senior for Struthers (8-8, 4-3), tied for game-high scoring honors with Niles' Tyler Spencer, each firing in 26 points.
Martin scored his 26 with a versatility that had him putting up baskets inside and hitting four 3-pointers. Martin also grabbed 14 of Struthers' 40 rebounds.
Martin and Franceschelli (17 points) were joined in double figures by Jason Mitchell with 16 and Jim Tabak with 15.
Dan Jones' 17 points joined Dave Soda's 14 points to complement Spencer's team-high 26 for Niles.
"You have to be proud of these guys because they never quit tonight, they just kept coming back," Niles coach Ron Price said. "But give Coach Fuline credit, he had his kids ready to play.
"We had a great energy going for us in the second half, but we have to rebound better than we did tonight."
For Niles, Soda, the 6-4 senior, had 10 of his team's 32 rebounds and Jason Shelton dished out eight assists.
Struthers senior guard Nick Leiter dished out a career-high 12 assists, including one to Franceschelli for the game-winner.
"Niles was double-teaming us a lot in the second half and I was seeing the whole floor with a lot of guys open," Leiter said.
Early lead: Niles (12-3, 4-3) led 11-10 after the first quarter, with its last lead of the game (13-11) coming at the 6:21 mark of the second quarter.
It was the 5-foot-7 junior Franceschelli who broke a 13-13 deadlock to give the Wildcats a lead they would hold until the score was tied with 17 seconds left.
With 6:12 left in the game, Niles cut the lead to 59-50, but moments later it was Martin's five-point surge to give Struthers a 16-point lead, 66-50.
Then, Red Dragon 3-pointers became plentiful, with Spencer hitting three and Soda a pair. It was the last of Spencer's four 3-pointers on the night that put Niles just a point back at 76-75 with 46 seconds left. Niles' Jones, a sophomore who played in the junior varsity game and started the varsity contest, hit a free throw to tie the score.