Francia's buzzer-beating 3 lifts Conant past Fremd

 
By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/11/2022 10:06 PM

Call it a barnburner, a cliffhanger, an edge-of your-seat, down-to-the-wire thriller.

Use whichever cliché you like, but Conant coach Matt Walsh called it "just a great Mid-Suburban West basketball game."

 

Friday night at Fremd, the Cougars held a late 7-point lead, only to watch the Vikings tie the game with 3.4 seconds left.

Then after a timeout, Conant hustled the ball downcourt, and Cougars senior Colin Francia let fly a 3-pointer from the deep right corner at the buzzer.

The shot swished through to give Conant a 51-48 MSL West boys basketball victory.

"That's every boys dream, right?" said Walsh of Francia's game-winner. "The thing is, Colin has put in countless hours of work in the gym when no one else is looking."

It was Francia's second buzzer-beating game-winning shot of the season, as he did the same thing earlier this year at York.

"Colin believes in himself, and we believe in him," added Walsh.

Conant (15-11, 5-5) led at halftime 20-19 as Fremd was 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the first two quarters.

Then the Vikings opened the second half with 3 consecutive 3s -- from Eli Schoffstall, Cameron Kuhl, and Caiden Suchy -- and took a 38-33 lead going into the fourth period.

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But the Cougars started a rally, then midway through the final stanza there was a scary moment when senior Isaac Hanley went down hard with an apparent leg injury after being fouled.

But Hanley stayed in the game and led the charge that saw Conant take a 47-40 advantage with just 2 minutes left.

"What can I say about our seniors," said Walsh, a group that includes Francia, Hanley, Michael Sheehy, Leonard Ahmeti and David Kulig.

"They're a great group, they work hard and they provide tremendous leadership."

Fremd (16-9, 5-5) fought back in the final minute and Schoffstall hit a couple of clutch free throws to bring the Vikings to within 48-47.

Then with the clock winding down, senior teammate Chris Smyros drove hard to the basket, was fouled, and split a pair from the line to tie it at 48-48.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With 3.4 seconds Walsh called his timeout, setting the stage for the final drama.

Hanley got the ball in to sophomore guard Yusuf Cisse, who dribbled over the half-court line and found Francia open in the corner, who sank the trey as time expired.

"We actually repped that play in practice this week," said Walsh. "Colin hit a great shot and the other four guys did a nice job of executing the play."

Hanley scored 15 points for Conant, while 6-5 sophomore Camden Lathos finished with 13.

Schoffstall led the way for Fremd with 16 points while Suchy scored 14, grabbed 6 boards and did a terrific job on the defensive end.

"Fremd is a great team, and a great program," said Walsh. "A game like this could have gone either way, and tonight it went our way."

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