RECAP | Walker's Buzzer-Beater Lifts Grizzlies to Opening Night Win Against Wilmington

Photo: Quinn Fitzgerald
Photo: Quinn Fitzgerald

WILMINGTON, OhioBayleigh Walker's layup with under a second to go in regulation proved to be the game-winner as the Franklin women's basketball team rallied for a thrilling 78-76 win over host Wilmington College in the Grizzlies' season-opening contest.

Walker's game-winner capped a wild fourth quarter that featured six lead changes and the Grizzlies (1-0) rallying from eight points down with less than four minutes to play. Britney Ballard matched a career-high with 23 points, knocking down a trio of three-pointers late in the game to help stun the Quakers (1-2).

Each of Franklin's first three possessions netted points, giving the Grizzlies a lead they would hold throughout the opening quarter. The Grizzlies limited Wilmington to under 30% shooting in the opening period and led 19-15 after 10 minutes of play.

The Quakers opened the second quarter with a 12-2 run to take their first lead of the ballgame and hold their biggest lead of the night at 27-21 with five minutes to go. But Franklin answered with a quick run of their own to close the gap and headed into the locker room at half trailing 35-32.

Neither team would lead by more than three points in the third quarter with the lead changing hands five times during the period along. But thanks to 11 free throws in the frame, the Grizzlies headed into the final quarter holding the slimmest of leads at 57-56.

Franklin would go cold to start the fourth quarter, notching just two field goals in the first 6:26 of the period and thanks to some sharp shooting from the Quakers, the Grizzlies faced a 69-61 deficit with 3:34 to play.  

But the Grizzlies would get hot at the right time, knocking down their final seven shots on the night. Two buckets from Walker and a pair of threes from Ballard put Franklin back in front at 71-70 with 1:28 to go. The teams traded the lead on each of their next possessions and down by a point with six seconds to go, Ballard buried her third straight three to make it a 76-74 game.

Wilmington drew even thanks to a pair of free throws with one second showing on the clock. Out of a Franklin timeout that advanced the ball past half court, Ashlin Aycock launched her inbound pass into the paint where Walker hauled it in and banked home the winning shot as time expired.

Walker finished the night with 14 points and freshman Bayleigh Torrance added 12 points off the bench for the Grizzlies. Franklin knocked down 42.9% (30-for-70) of their field goals, going 4-for-10 from three-point range and 14-for-23 from the free throw line. Defensively, Franklin held the Quakers to 34.7% (25-for-72) shooting.

Freshman Jenna Cowart led the Grizzlies with seven rebounds while Ballard, Aycock and Erin Bradley tied for the team lead with three assists each. The Grizzlies got a major lift from their bench, out-scoring the Wilmington reserves 34-14.

The Grizzlies will play in the championship game of the Fred Raizk Tournament on Saturday (Nov. 23) afternoon, taking on Albion College. Tip-off is set for approximately 3:00 p.m.