Eledria Franklin knows her role. As one of Wichita South’s two senior starters, her goal is to lead her teammates, encourage, cajole, snap them out of funks.
During the Class 6A title game at Koch Arena on Saturday, Franklin not only made sure her teammates kept their poise in the face of severe foul trouble, but she scored 13 points as South beat Maize 47-35 to win its second straight title.
South (24-1) is 48-2 in the past two seasons.
“Especially being a senior, it means a lot,” Franklin said. “It just means a lot to go out and leave high school on a good note. I knew it would be my last game playing, to be here with my sisters.”
Franklin comes across as a quiet sort, but that perception — judging by her laughter and sophomore Ericka Mattingly’s — is a gross mistake.
“They actually say I talk a lot,” she said. “They want me to shut up, but I won’t do it. They know I’m never going to shut up. Sometimes they might want to punch me in the face I’m still going to be there. I’m going to push them to their limit and I’m going to make sure I’m always encouraging them with words.”
The first half against Maize (20-5) was difficult. South had a 16-12 lead, shooting 4 of 17 from the field.
And South had foul trouble in the first quarter with sophomore Kendrian Elliott picking up two and junior Kirea Rogers three.
The Titans needed their seniors, Franklin and Madison Northcutt, to be steady.
South returned every starter from its 2013 title team, but with all the youth — two sophomores and a junior in the starting lineup, along with freshman Kyla Callins playing 26 key minutes in the title game — Franklin and Northcutt were squarely in the leadership role.
“We just kind of blocked out all the fouls, everything that was going on, and just know that we had to work hard,” Northcutt said. “ What I really do is just be a leader. That’s what seniors have to do.”
Northcutt had nine rebounds and two points.
South’s foul trouble could have been a break for Maize. Elliott and Rogers can be dominant in the lane. Rogers had five blocked shots in Friday’s semifinal win over Olathe South.
But the Eagles couldn’t take advantage. The Eagles made 10 of 36 shots, including 1 of 9 from three.
Maize junior Daley Handy had 15 points, hitting 8 of 9 free throws. Saige Baalman had eight points. Junior Keiryn Swenson was held to three points, but she had 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.
With South up 8-6 late in the first, Franklin made the first of her two three-pointers for the five-point lead. She also capped an 8-0 run early in the third quarter as the Titans took control with the 24-14 lead.
Maize showed signs of life early in the fourth when Handy hit a three to help get the Eagles within 31-26.
But Franklin drove inside for the basket and Mattingly took a pass from Patriece Dodson to score easily as South went on a 9-2 run. Callins scored the Titans’ final four points, finishing with 11.
South played Maize in January at Koch Arena and came from behind to win 51-49.
That bit of knowledge helped.
“We already played Maize prior to this, and we already knew how they played,” said Mattingly, who had 14 points.
Scales hugged both Northcutt and Franklin as they came out of the game in the final seconds.
“They’ve been awesome all year,” Scales said. “ Just in our seniors, leadership has been a focal point of us this year. We was able to send them off as champions.”
Mattingly had the same goal.
“We wanted to send them out right,” she said. “We need to get another state ring for them.”
Wichita senior Madison Northcutt
Wichita senior Eledria Franklin
Wichita South sophomore Ericka Mattingly
Wichita South coach Antwain Scales