Unhappy ending for Wooster
Truth hurts as season comes to close for All-American Franks
SALEM, Va. -- Ian Franks will look back on his career at the College of Wooster one day and realize it was special. The tears he shed will have dried up and the pain of having his dream of winning an NCAA Division III National Championship crushed will have been eased by the passage of time.
But inside the Salem Civic Center on this Saturday afternoon, Franks was still dealing with the unhappy ending to his final season with the Fighting Scots.
One night after an improbable comeback against Williams in a national semifinal, Wooster ran out of magic against St. Thomas, falling 78-54 in the title game.
The senior guard watched through the confetti streaming down from the ceiling as the Tommies (30-3) celebrated at mid-court, and while the All-American tried to do everything he could to will Wooster (31-3) to one more win, scoring 22 points, it wasn’t enough.
“St. Thomas is a great team. They were aggressive, tough and physical. They had an answer for everything we tried to do against them.”
Wooster was trying to win its first national title in school history. The fifth-ranked Fighting Scots had been here twice in the past nine years, hardly a surprise for a team that has the best winning percentage in college basketball since 2000.
Their day started well as they raced out to an 11-2 lead in the first 5 minutes of the game. Franks scored four of the points during the run, including a hard drive to the basket that resulted in a layup and an 8-2 advantage. Moments later, with Wooster in front 11-8, Franks nailed a trey to push the lead back to six.
There was little the Fighting Scots could do the rest of the afternoon. They were knocked on their heels by the relentless pressure of the eighth-ranked Tommies and managed only one field goal in the final 13 minutes of the half.
Down 43-26 at the break, Wooster tried to rally in the second half but was unable to get into an offensive rhythm. Franks took several shots during the comeback attempt, but every time it seemed he was going to knock down a clutch shot and bring the Fighting Scots back to life, the ball bounced hard off the glass or rim.
“I just missed those shots. They are shots I know I can make,” Franks said. “I should have been more under control in those situations.”
Franks was the only player in double figures for the Fighting Scots, who shot 40.9 percent from the field and turned the ball over 18 times.
“We didn’t execute, but St. Thomas had so much to do with that,” Moore said. “Their full-court press was a big factor in the game. I don’t think I prepared us to attack it properly today.”
Wooster never got closer than 10 in the second half as the Tommies used sharp shooting (54.2 percent) and great defense to put the game out of reach.
Franks ends his career as one of the great players in Wooster history. He was named an All-American twice in his career and came into this game averaging 18.2 points per outing. Franks wished the outcome would have been different, but at the same time, he doesn’t regret his decision to play for the Fighting Scots.
“It’s been a great experience. I never dreamed I would play for the national title in the final game of my career,” Franks said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done. Only one team gets to win at the end, and it wasn’t us. But it’s been a great four years.”
Franks is one of four seniors on the Wooster roster and there is no question that he and his veteran teammates will be missed.
Yet, they can leave knowing they guided the Fighting Scots to one of their greatest seasons in school history. Wooster set a record for wins in a season and was playing in its 20th NCAA tournament.
“Right now, the only thing you can think about is that you were playing for a title and didn’t win it,” Moore said. “In time, the players will realize they have a lot of great memories from this season. They have accomplished a lot and had an outstanding season. Our seniors deserve a lot of credit for that.”