DEFIANCE, OHIO -- The Defiance College men's basketball team earned a hard-fought 76-72 victory over the Franklin (Ind.) College Grizzlies in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference action at the Karl H. Weaner Center on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets (3-4, 2-1 HCAC) were led by junior Randall Aikins Jr. (Detroit, Mich./Plymouth), who scored a season-best 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting on the afternoon. A pair of freshmen, Davontae Kinnie (Ft. Wayne, Ind./Northside) and Kiewuan Graham (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) also finished in double figures for Defiance, as Kinnie finished with 15 markers to go along with five rebounds, three assists, and four steals, while Graham finished with 12 points and five boards.
Franklin (2-6, 1-2 HCAC) had three scorers in double figures, led by John Beineke's 17 points, seven rebound evening.
The Grizzlies took an early 16-9 lead in the opening eight minutes of action, putting the Yellow Jackets in a hole early. Defiance battled to cut the deficit to a point, 21-20, at the 4:51 mark, on a triple by Keith McClure (Toledo/Toledo Christian). Franklin extended the lead back to seven points, 29-22, before a bucket by Aikins made made it a 29-24 Franklin lead at the break.
The Defiance defense came out with great intensity to start the second half, as a steal by Allante Wheeler out of the gate led to a hoop-and-harm that cut the deficit to 29-27. Franklin split a pair of free throws before a Graham layup and a triple by Kinnie gave Defiance their first lead at 32-30 just 1:55 into the second half. The teams exchanged leads seven times over the next five minutes of action, seeing the game tied at 43-43 at the 13:08 mark, when consecutive buckets by Aikins and Cohen Nies (Logansport, Ind./Lewis Cass) put the Yellow Jackets up 47-43. Franklin cut the lead to two points before Defiance rallied for 12 straight points, eight of them coming from Aikins as the Defiance lead grew to 59-45 with 8:41 to play.
Franklin did not go away easily, scoring the next nine points to get the game to within seven points, 61-54, at the 4:49 mark. After Aikins ended the run with a free throw, the Grizzlies hit a triple to make it 62-57. Franklin cut the lead to two points, 67-65 with under two minutes to play before Wheeler hit a pair of key free throws and a layup from Graham grew the DC lead to 71-65 with 55 ticks on the clock. Franklin still found a way to get the game to within two points with 14 seconds to go, but a pair of free throws by Kinnie will 11 seconds left iced the game, giving Defiance the 76-72 victory.
Defiance returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 16 with another HCAC battle, this one against the nationally-ranked Hanover (Ind.) College Panthers. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. in the Karl H. Weaner Center.