Dominant, clutch Damaria Franklin sparks Niles North past Warren

Niles North's Damaria Franklnin (13) pulls up a jump shot in the paint against Warren's Jordan Litke (32). Worsom Robinson/ For Sun-Times

Niles North is not a traditional powerhouse program, perhaps that is why Damaria Franklin has managed to avoid receiving the amount of hype his talent and skill merits.

Expect that to end very soon. The 6-4 junior was special on Tuesday in Libertyville. Franklin’s stats were tremendous and he came through when the Vikings’ season was on the line.

Niles North’s Dravon Clayborn drove to the basket with four seconds to play and the score tied. He missed the layup, but Franklin swooped in, grabbed the ball low and somehow managed to get it back up and in before the buzzer went off. The bucket gave the Vikings a 62-60 victory against Warren in a Class 4A regional semifinal.

“I saw [Clayborn] attacking the basket so I just went and made a big play,” Franklin said. “I didn’t know what the time was.”

“[Franklin’s play] was wild,” Niles North coach Glenn Olson said. “Early in the possession I thought about calling a timeout. But we are an open gym team. Let’s go out and play. We got to the basket, I was happy with that.”

Franklin scored a career-high 33 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had three blocks. He shot 7 for 14 from three-point range.

“I normally hit the midrange but they were packed in the zone so I had to take the three,” Franklin said. “I thought they would come out with the box and one after I hit a couple of threes in the second half, but they didn’t.”

Niles North (21-9) sparkled on several offensive possessions. The Vikings don’t have a senior playing significant minutes and could be one of the area’s top teams next season.

“We had some great moments, some tremendous moments of ball movement and some of the best possessions we’ve had,” Olson said. “At the same time we had careless mistakes. We turned the ball over when we didn’t need to. And our guard rebounding was very poor.”

Franklin scored 28 of his points in the first half. Fellow junior Jamal Stephenson scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half. He was 5 for 8 from three-point range.

“When you go against the ball press you don’t want to overthink it,” Olson said. “We wanted to spread out and use space and use our penetration. Our guys did a good job today finding the hot shooter, Stephenson in the first half and Franklin in the second.”

Franklin has had several big games this season. He scored 31 against Libertyville, 30 against Glenbrook South and 29 against DePaul Prep.

Warren (13-15) is much better than its record indicates. The Blue Devils had a rough first half of the season but played very well in the final two months, knocking off several ranked teams.

Junior guard Branden Ellis led Warren with 17 points. Jayson Dorsey and Juwan Perry each added 14 and 6-8 senior Declan O’Connor had eight points and nine rebounds.

Niles North will play Notre Dame, a 62-56 winner against Glenbrook North, in the regional title game on Friday.

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