One of the most unfortunate parts of a truly thrilling playoff game is that one of the teams ultimately has to lose.
The Frankford High School boys basketball team found that out the hard way.
The Pioneers, who had advanced to the Public League postseason’s Round of 16 after last Thursday’s 64-51 win over Northeast, fell in a 52-51 home heartbreaker to John Bartram on Tuesday afternoon. In a wire-to-wire contest in which neither team had a lead larger than five points, it was Bartram senior guard Khayri Washington’s three-pointer from near the top of the key with 13 seconds remaining that broke Frankford’s backs.
Frankford head coach Dave Huzzard frantically attempted to call time out after Washington’s shot, but the noise from the packed crowd negated the players’ and referees’ ability to hear Huzzard’s plea. Frankford pushed upcourt, but tries by Tyree Tucker and Andre Coach before the buzzer were no good.
“It was a close game all the way through,” Huzzard said by phone on Wednesday. “What really killed us was we were 7-for-16 from the foul line. That’s something you can’t afford to do in a game like that.”
Still though, Huzzard found some silver lining in the loss, and rightfully so. Last year, the Public League re-aligned its basketball teams based on overall program strength; Frankford ended up in the powerful, top A Division, and the growing pains were substantial. The team won just eight total games.
“Last year was the first time they went with strength divisions, and we only one three games in division play,” Huzzard said. “This year we went 6-5, and I think winning six games in a division like that speaks volumes.”
The Pioneers enjoyed a nice turnaround in 2012-13, boasting a winning record in division play and winning two more overall games than the year before. They also eliminated a Northeast team that had won nine in a row, and came oh so close to knocking off Bartram.
However, things didn’t always appear to be heading in the right direction for Frankford. The team endured a five-game losing streak over Christmas vacation, and Huzzard used words like “awful,” “nightmare” and “pathetic” to describe the Pioneers’ play during that time. At the time, they appeared to be a sinking ship, but much to Huzzard’s delight his team responded, posting a 7-6 record the rest of the way.
“Man, it really was awful,” he said, referring to the team’s struggles early on. “We had no one to handle the ball, nobody to bring it up the court. But when you play against competition as good as we did, you’re only going to get better. That did us a world of good.”
Huzzard mainly pointed to the progressive emergence of his sophomore point guards, Sterling Walker and Quadire Truesdale for the turnaround. Their development made them more comfortable and confident on the court, which spread to the players they distributed the ball to. Guards Tucker and Joe Ricketts became more confident with their jump shots, and senior forwards Donald Robinson and Denzel Turbeville became impact players in Frankford’s frontcourt.
“Last year, we got worse as the year went on,” Huzzard said. “This year, if you could have seen us at Christmas … it was pathetic. We had hit such a low that it was a downer just trying to get them motivated. So to be that bad and to go as far as we did over the month of January and some of February … that makes the season rewarding.”
And though practice for the 2013-14 campaign is still about nine months away, Huzzard already can’t wait for next season. He will lose Tucker, Robinson and Turbeville, three of his five top scorers; however, leading scorer Ricketts will be back for his senior season, while Walker and Truesdale will only be juniors. Slasher Aaron McFarlan will return, and despite losing his starting frontcourt, Huzzard is excited about 6-foot-6 junior Robert Simmons, who came on to play key minutes toward the end of the season.
In a year that the Frankford football and baseball teams won Public League championships, it’s not a bad time to be a Pioneer basketball supporter, too.
“I promise you, the kids that will be back got better … every single one of them,” Huzzard said. “That’s the nice part. I’ve got to admit, I’m already looking forward to coaching those six or seven returners next year.”
Sports editor Ed Morrone can be reached at