With a little over nine minutes remaining in his team’s opening-round Beach Ball Classic contest against Mullins on Friday night, Franklin (Ohio) coach Brain Bales had seen enough.
Luke Kennard could ride the bench no longer.
The dynamic 6-foot-5 junior guard couldn’t be stopped through the game’s opening 20 minutes. He had 30 points and his team was leading by 14 points.
But he was also whistled for his fourth foul with 11:54 remaining and was within a foul of being disqualified from the game.
In the two-plus minutes Kennard was on the bench, he, Bales and everyone else in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center watched Mullins 6-3 senior Alex Brown put on a tremendous shooting display, hitting four consecutive 3-point attempts in 1:20 to help pull his team within five points.
Kennard re-entered the game with 9:10 remaining and immediately brought stability to Franklin (7-0) and stemmed the tide, scoring 15 of his team’s ensuing and final 20 points to help the Wildcats pull away for a 71-57 win.
“One of the thoughts in my mind was, ‘We’re not going down with him on the bench,’ ” Bales said. “I sort of rolled the dice and put him in there.”
Kennard finished with 45 points – which amazingly is just a couple points above his average through his team’s first seven games this season – on 16 of 27 shooting from the field and came within three points of Michael Bibby’s tournament record of 48 set in 1995.
He is now tied with Bibby for second-most in tournament history and the 43 he scored last year is tied for sixth-most with Kobe Bryant.
Kennard also assisted on four of the five Franklin points he didn’t score in the final 9:10.
“I didn’t [ask to return], but I kind of figured that they would,” Kennard said. “I trust my coaches. I wanted to go back in. I don’t like sitting on the bench.”
Evan Crow scored 14 to complement Kennard.
Brown, a mid-major prospect, finished with 33 points on 11 of 23 shooting and memories of a scintillating hot streak at the convention center.
“Everything I heard about [Brown] was true,” Bales said. “I heard he was a warrior and when the game gets close he wants to step up and take the game over, and he did. My hat goes off to him.”
Freshman Jalek Felton scored 11 points for Mullins (7-4).
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.