WARREN, NJ -- It didn't take the Franklin girls basketball team long to assert its dominance Tuesday night.
The Warriors needed just four minutes and 15 seconds to build up an 18-point lead and leave no doubt about where things were headed against Watchung Hills.
Senior guard Diamond Miller scored 25 points, handed out six assists, grabbed six rebounds and made four steals to lead undefeated Franklin to an 82-38 victory over Watchung Hills in a matchup of the two schools that met for the Section 2, Group 4 championship last March.
Watchung Hills (6-4) is still a solid team, but not quite as formidable a foe as was the case when the other Warriors still had forward Julia Cunningham still in their lineup last year. She is at Princeton University now. Meanwhile, virtually all the Franklin Warriors who helped the team reach the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions for the second year in a row last year are still intact, including Miller, the do-everything wizard who is committed to the University of Maryland.
With 3:45 left in the opening quarter Tuesday night, Franklin already led, 20-2. Oddly enough, Franklin coach Audrey Taylor said that sluggish starts have actually been an issue for the team lately. Until last night, anyway.
"Actually, we had been struggling in first quarters," Taylor said. "It was nice to start as well as we did tonight. This team is very self-motivated right now. They are focused on their goals, and they stayed on that today."
Although Miller was the team's leading scorer in the game, her contributions in the opening salvo were just part of a well-rounded whole. With the score tied, 2-2, Miller sank a 3-pointer to ignite an 18-0 run. But she didn't score any more points in that thunderous opening statement of a spurt by Franklin.
"We want to start the way that we finish," Miller said. "We did that tonight. We don't want teams to hang around and stay in the game, because then they may hit a 3-pointer and start to get some momentum. We stopped them early tonight and didn't let that happen."
Christina Midgette stepped back and knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner for an 8-2 Franklin lead. Keona Schenk keyed Franklin's withering full-court defense with a steal that she turned into a layup for a 10-2 lead. Midgette then drained another '3' off a pass from Tiana Jackson for a 13-2 lead. It was 16-2 after Kennady Schenk turned a layup into an and-one 3-point play. Kennady then converted a pass from her sister Keona into a transition layup for an 18-2 spread. And then Keona Schenk stole an inbounds pass and banked in a layup for a 20-2 lead just 4:15 into a game that was, already, no longer a contest.
And Miller, the crown jewel of a dream lineup, was merely an accessory to the overall proceedings--although she turned in some wondrous plays at both ends of the floor over the next two and a half quarters before going to the bench for good early in the fourth.
"We are all a team here, and it doesn't matter who scores," said Miller, who demands excellence even though Franklin is still unbeaten right now. "I still expect more from all of us. We will have bigger games coming up, and we need everybody to help us win those games."
Midgette finished with 17 points and Kennady Schenk had 15 points for Franklin. Keona Schenk and Jackson each finished with four assists.