It could have been billed as the Franklin and Davis Show. For those perusers of parentheses, the match-up between Taft's Kevin Franklin (the Valley's leading scorer at 31.7 points per game) and El Camino Real's Sean Davis (the Valley's leading rebounder at 13 a game) was an SRO, black-tie affair.
And while the leading men did nothing to disappoint, it was a supporting actor that stole the show.
Franklin got his points and Davis grabbed his rebounds, but Taft center Brian Smith was the real scene-swiper.
Smith, a 6-6 senior, scored 19 points to bolster Franklin's 37-point performance as Taft defeated El Camino Real, 71-68, in a Valley League game on Friday at El Camino Real.
"When they double-team me, he is such a big target, it's easy to get him the ball," Franklin said. "Smith is bigger than anyone they have inside."
Ad-libbing is a luxury that Taft Coach Jim Woodard has with his current lineup.
"The first half was very, very weird," Woodard said. "They didn't really make a lot of their open shots, and they normally shoot pretty well. We missed a lot of fast-break attempts, where we usually score a lot of points. Nothing really went like it should have gone."
While Smith was pulling an inside job, Franklin was piling up the numbers that have become commonplace for the 6-3 senior forward: For the sixth consecutive league game, Franklin scored more than 30 points.
Davis, who finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds, kept El Camino Real (5-8, 1-5) within striking range by scoring 10 points in the first half, as Taft took a 30-26 lead at intermission.
But a Taft run of 16-6 to open the third quarter left El Camino Real in the toughest of positions: Having to stop Franklin while avoiding the inevitable pass to Smith inside.
Smith scored eight points in the third quarter and Franklin added nine as Taft (12-3, 4-2) took a 54-42 lead into the fourth quarter.
El Camino Real crept back in the game when Davis scored on consecutive baskets with 4:10 remaining, paring the Taft lead to 61-52.
Taft scored just four points over the next 1:30, but the Conquistadores were slowed when Davis missed four straight free throws in the final 2:34.
El Camino Real began fouling effectively with two minutes left, and when Smith missed the second half of a one-and-one with 28 seconds left and Taft leading, 69-62, El Camino Real geared up for one last chance. Damon Orlando missed an 18-foot jumper with 19 seconds left, but guard Kevin McNair was fouled on the rebound, and made both free throws to cut the Taft lead to 69-64.