STEUBENVILLE – The Franciscan men's basketball team honored its four graduating seniors Saturday afternoon before the Barons tipped off against Medaille. The Mavericks were able to hold off a feisty Franciscan offense for the 79-62 win.
Prior to the start of the game, head coach Joe Wallace and the entire Baron team honored Jacob Divens, JP Dombrowski, Garrison Holmes, and Keoni Sablan. The four seniors have helped to bring the program to the next level of Baron basketball.
"I am extremely appreciative of this group of guys for sticking through this," remarked Coach Wallace. "Things were really bad not too long ago and they are the cornerstone of the new era of Franciscan basketball. They have laid the groundwork for what is to come and their hard work and resiliency will spread throughout this place."
Medaille took control of the game early with a 10-5 lead with 15:38 to play in the first before Sablan cut the deficit down to two with a three-pointer in the corner off a pass from Divens. The Mavericks answered with a three of their own before Divens hit a jumper with 13:43 to play to keep the Barons close. The Mavericks used a 10-2 run over the next six minutes to take a 20-12 lead before Divens halted the run with a three of his own, this time off a pass from Sablan with 7:37 to play.
The Mavericks and Barons went shot-for-shot for the next five shots before Medaille used a 7-0 run to take their largest lead of the half, 34-19, with 3:44 to play. Sophomore Matt Trent hit a jumper with 3:24 to play to cut the lead back down to 34-21. After the two teams traded the next four baskets, Jonathan Smith hit a jumper with 15 seconds left in the half to give Medaille a 40-24 lead at halftime.
Medaille hit a pair of threes to open the second half to take its first 20-point lead of the game, 46-24, with 18:49 to play in the game. Sablan sandwiched a pair of layups around a Medaille jumper to keep the deficit at 20, 48-28, with 18:01 to play. The Barons did not back down and continued to chip away at the lead as sophomore Josh York made a layup at 15:48 to cut the lead down to 18, 52-34, with15:48 to play. The Mavericks pushed their lead back to 21, 58-37, with 12:20 to play but Franciscan answered with a 9-2 run, including five points from sophomore John Noce, over the next four minutes to cut the lead to 14, 60-44.
Franciscan used another 8-5 run, highlighted by a steal and layup from Sablan to get to within 13, 65-52, with 5:01 to play. The Mavericks pushed their lead back to 16, 70-54, with 3:30 to play but Trent hit a pair of free throws and Sablan made a jumper to stay within 14, 72-58, with 2:44 left in regulation.
The Mavericks closed out the game on a 7-4 run to seal the 79-62 win for the Mavericks.
The game marked the final game of the seniors' career, but their individual impacts on the program will be long from forgotten.
Holmes graduates as ninth in the Division three era in steals (60) and is 14th on the scoring list with 398, including five against the Mavericks.
"I am thankful for the opportunity to play the game that I love for another four years after high school," remarked Holmes. "I am also thankful for all the coaches I had while I was here. I have learned so many things from all of them. All of the challenges I went through while I was here, being so far from home and far from family have helped me grow into an actual man. I have had more growth here in four years than the rest of my life.
"This place is one of a kind. I am thankful for all my teammates and coaches. There has been a lot of turnover in the last four years, but I am glad to have these [other seniors] to have struck through it together."
Dombrowski leaves the program after three years in a Baron uniform as second in career blocks (79) including a pair against Medaille, and 10th in career points, 478 (four against Medaille). His ranks sixth on the career rebounding list with 361, aided by eight against Medaille.
"I am just so grateful for my parents to give me the opportunity to come to this school," remarked Dombrowski following the game. "This school has given me everything, it has really taught me how to be a man. From the coaching staff here and the faculty, I just have felt so much support across the board, especially from other coaches as well. I have always felt that people here have had my back. Playing here has always been a dream of mine, especially being a local, to come here and be a star and help make a change in the program and get stuff going.
"Freshman year, Coach Lamanna was the first man to introduce virtue to me and make it attractive to me and the coaches now, just focusing on what matters, and that the best way to show people Jesus is by winning the right way, with virtue, perseverance, hope, and trusting each other.
"This place and this basketball team have brought me over the threshold of manhood and this year have given me the chance to put that into practice and become a leader. I appreciate the way that Franciscan athletics gives us young men a chance to be on fire for the faith and at the same time live and show our passions. I have so much appreciation for the people at this school and the area for believing in me and us, even when we are down, and helping us stay the course and trust the process."
Divens, a four-year member of the Baron basketball team, has left his mark on the Baron record books. Divens is third in games started (61) and is the modern-era leader in assists (277 – six of which came against Medaille) and has the best assist/turnover ratio in the program (1.6 a/t). Divens in 10th in three-pointers made and eighth in free throws made. The Detriot, Michigan native is 11th on the Baron scoring list (472).
"I want to say thank you to everyone here, I had a really rough freshman year before transferring here," remarked Divens. "I really appreciate Franciscan for being so inviting and welcoming and giving me a second chance in college to play basketball. To be able to play so many minutes and play so many games is something I never really imagined coming out of high school. Thank you to my other seniors, JP, Keoni, G, for sticking with me. I had some doubts about coming back at different times, but knowing they were coming back with me made it easier. I want to thank all of my teammates for getting me those assists, making shots, they have been fun to play with. I have had a blast doing it. Coming out and preparing every day to win, through the good and the bad of my sophomore and junior years of the struggles and injury I didn't think I would come back from, I am just thankful to God for giving me a second chance in playing when I thought it was over.
"I am thankful for these coaches for believing in me to still run this team as an old man and to be a captain coming off an injury like I had. I want to thank Franciscan from the bottom of my heart for being so loving and so welcoming to someone who is not practicing the faith right now but searching, and not judgmental and supportive of the team and players. It means a lot to me, and from the bottom of my heart I wish them nothing but success in the future.
"I also want to give Sarah Bueche, the season still goes out to you, you are the GOAT, the uncatchable fish."
Sablan leaves Franciscan as the leading scorer of the DIII era and the first 1,000-point scorer since athletics have come back to Franciscan. Sablan finishes his career with 1,093 points in four years and is 12th on the all-time list, including the "old era" of Baron basketball. His third in assists (183) and steals (85), and 10th in total rebounds (293). Sablan is the career leader in free throws made and attempted (250-362).
"These four years have gone by so fast, and I appreciate every coach that has come through this program, for the good and the bad, and the resiliency that I have learned from them and the fatherly figures that I have gained," said Sablan. "It has been a different atmosphere to be able to bring my passion for the game and go to school somewhere that is equally as passionate for the faith. It has been fun to be a part of that and to be able to grow on more aspects than just on the court. This year, to be able to see the program to grow into something that can be great in the future is something I can walk away from with a smile. There is such a bright future and I know I had a part of it and it feels great to be able to lead the young guys. Hopefully, they can just completely transform the program and take over the conference. It's been a fun four years."
The Barons wrap up their season 5-20 overall and 4-14 in the AMCC under second-year head coach Joe Wallace.