It's only the second year of Franklin boys' basketball coach Tyler Podoll's rebuild project with the Sabers, but already his team has achieved something of a signature win.
The Sabers were flat as pancake in the first half and trailed host Kenosha Indian Trail, 35-19, at the break in a Southeast Conference game on Jan. 6.
But they rallied with spirit, grit and a fair amount of high-octane energy to sweep past the Hawks and keep themselves in the league race with a 61-55 win.
Podoll didn't want to read too much into the victory, but he did admit it was special to watch that second half.
"Putting it in perspective," he said, "I told the kids at half that this first half was the way Franklin used to play, but that in the second half I expect you to play the way we know you can. I don't know what form it will take, but we have to show perseverance and intensity, and we need to show people the results of all the hard work we put in in the last 18 months."
And the Sabers did as they improved to 2-1 in Southeast Conference play and 7-2 overall. Thanks to Racine Horlick's upset of league-leading Oak Creek, there are six Southeast Conference teams within a game of each other.
Franklin took on 2016 league champ Racine Park (3-2 in league) on Jan. 10 and then will be at Kenosha Tremper (0-4) on Friday,Jan. 13.
Podoll knows the Sabers can't take a night off in league play.
"Our conference right now is one of the most outstanding in the area," he said. "We're just beating each other up, but the kids are getting into the habit of winning. I think we would have lost this game (Indian Trail) last year."
But they didn't this time.
Podoll said he's usually very analytical at the half, but for this one, he knew he had to abandon that tactic.
"I'm usually very statistics-oriented," he said, "usually very detailed-oriented, but it was very emotional this time around."
On the statistical end, Podoll knew the Sabers needed to be more than eight baskets better than the Hawks in the second half.
They succeeded partially in that regard and then made up the difference at the foul line.
"Instead of using the swing (offense), we isolated on the best matchups we could find, we did a lot of one-on-one," Podoll said. "We figured we made about 70 percent of the plays we needed to that way."
The difference was remarkable. Marcus Lee scored 18 points for the Sabers, including 12 of 15 free throws. Podoll estimated he made 10 in a row at one point in the second half, and guard Jacob Vonderwell, who missed six of the first seven free throws he shot this year, made four in a row down the stretch.
Franklin finally got the lead with about 2:30 remaining. A wild sequence followed, which included a missed dunk by Indian Trail and three missed layups by the Sabers. Indian Trail eventually got a basket out of the situation, but Podoll felt the team dodged a bullet, as the Sabers scored the last 6 points to break a 55-55 tie and win the game.
"Then we took control," he said. "We scored buckets on each of the next two possessions. We went to a 1-3-1 zone, and we were able to ride out the end of the game."
Forward Max Alba led the way with 26 points. Overall, Franklin was 19-of-28 at the foul line as compared to 14-of-17 for the Hawks.
Podoll has big long-range goals for the program, and it took a major step toward some of them with this win, he said.
"(Steve) Showalter at Germantown and Tyrone Lewis at Riverside got wins like this along the way," he said of two high-profile programs of the last decade. "That second half sets an expectation of where this program wants to be. This is some of the stuff we want to see out of the kids all of the time. Just a very satisfying win."