BELLEVILLE — O'Fallon's Donovan Franklin took matters into his own hands in overtime.
Franklin scored 33 points, including seven points during a 9-0 run at the start of overtime, as the Panthers turned back the Belleville West Maroons 78-74 on Saturday night in a Southwestern Conference game.
"He's a very, very good player and he took over right there at the start of the overtime,'' O'Fallon coach Rick Gibson said of Franklin. "That's what we need him to do, and he did it at both ends. He had a big block right at the start of overtime and a big rebound and he's scoring and he's making free throws. We need him doing that for a whole game.''
The Panthers led by 14 points with 5:14 left to play, but Cade Dibadj came off the bench to key a 12-1 run for the Maroons with a pair of 3-pointers.
"We had a stretch there of like five possessions where I don't think we got a shot,'' Gibson said. "I thought we played well up until that point, and then West turned up the pressure, and our guards just weren't very strong with the ball.
"Like I told the kids, at that point it should be us being strong with the ball and shooting layups and free throws and instead we were turning the ball over. Credit West. They smelled blood on us, and they came after us.''
The Maroons tied the score at 54-54 on a one-hander by Jeffrey Wicker with two minutes left, and then went up 59-55 after another 3-pointer by Dibadj and a tip in by Wicker with 45 seconds to go.
The Panthers got a layup by Chance Armstrong with 17 seconds remaining to close the gap to 61-59 and then two free throws by Franklin with 8.6 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Demond White missed a running shot through the lane as time expired in the fourth quarter.
Franklin scored on a pull-up jumper and a layup at the start of the overtime as the Panthers opened up a 70-61 lead.
The Maroons kept battling, getting within 76-71 on a 3-pointer by Kyle Sweeney with 13 seconds left in overtime.
Franklin sank two free throws with 4.3 left in the extra period to seal the win.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of courage and heart tonight,'' said West coach Joe Muniz, whose team was coming off a 60-40 loss to Collinsville on Friday night. "It's been a difficult two days. I was very happy with the resolve we showed and the courage we showed.
"We had it right there, and give them credit. They made plays at the end and they made their free throws down the stretch. This one does hurt, though, because we were so close.''
The Panthers (10-8, 3-3) also got 15 points from Darien McClain, 12 points from Naason Cook and 10 points from Chance Armstrong.
The Maroons were led by Eugene Jones with 17 points, Dibadj and Wicker with 12 points and White with 11.
It was an especially tough loss for the Maroons (3-10, 1-6), who have dropped five straight games.
"We have to be more consistent,'' Muniz said. "Tonight, we shot the ball very well. We knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when.
"This team is going to get better. I really do believe that they just need to get some confidence, but with our schedule, I'm not sure where the confidence is going to come from.''
Both teams came out shooting hot from the outside.
They traded 3-pointers at the start of the game with McClain hitting back-to-back shots for the Panthers and Jones and White connecting for the Maroons.
The Panthers led 19-14 at the end of the first quarter and increased their advantage to 24-14 on a basket by Chance Armstrong and a 3-pointer by Franklin at the start of the second quarter.
Isaiah Armstrong gave the Panthers a 37-27 cushion with 54 seconds left in the second quarter, but the Maroons' Nicholas Givens muscled in a shot in the lane to cut O'Fallon's lead to 37-29 at halftime.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.