Franklin knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in mounting a 19-11 first quarter lead, then held on down the stretch for a 45-35 victory over visiting Whitnall in a WIAA Division 1 regional girls basketball final Feb. 28.
The Sabers, who upped their record to 16-5, will meet 20-1 Brookfield Central in a 6 p.m. sectional semifinal Friday, March 6, at Greenfield. The Lancers survived a scare in their regional final, edging city rival Brookfield East, 48-46, on a basket with 2.4 seconds to play.
Franklin coach Ron Kluth believed his Sabers set the tone early in their regional final.
"I thought we came out really hard," he said, "compared to the last couple of games, when we were up and down and all over the place. We told our seniors this might be their last game, and that they needed to finish through.
"I thought Korina Harman did a really nice job, along with Shannon (Narlock) and Mariah Hill.
"We missed some easy shots early, which really would have given us a great start."
Hill, Nikki Dailey and reserve Jackie Ward hit 3-point baskets during the Sabers' opening-quarter surge.
Like Kluth, Whitnall coach Keith Larson considered those shots pivotal.
"They knocked down shots," Larson said. "They hit six 3s. Once they got the lead, they ran their five-out and controlled the ball. When you're trailing, that's a tough spot to be in."
The Sabers entered halftime with a 26-15 advantage and were still up 10, 33-23, after Ward sank another trey with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Whitnall's Keira Al-Mohareb, who had kept her team within striking range, fouled out with 3 minutes, 42 seconds to play, but the Falcons weren't finished. They pulled within three points, 38-33, on consecutive baskets by Rachel Serio and Lisa Donaldson.
Franklin entered the bonus with 3:07 to play, though, and the Sabers sank seven of eight foul shots in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Narlock led a balanced Franklin attack with 13 points. Hill scored nine, Dailey contributed seven, and Ward and Taylor Atkinson each chipped in with six.
Whitnall's Al-Mohareb led all scorers with 15 points. Donaldson tossed in eight and Rachel Wilson six for the Falcons, who finished 17-5.