LAKELAND — Wildwood junior guard Marcus Niblack made sure his team would have a shot at defending their state title. 

Niblack scored 33 points, including 19 in the first half, to lead Wildwood to a 76-62 victory over Franklin County on Monday afternoon in the semifinals of the 2019 FHSAA Class 1A Boys Basketball Championships at the RP Funding Center.

Wildwood (18-13) went on to lost a heartbreaker in the championship game Tuesday afternoon against Madison County (26-3).  The Cowboys' 62-60 win, which ended Wildwood’s bid for back-to-back state titles, capped a furious comeback from a double-digit halftime deficit for the Cowboys (26-3), who won their first state title. 

Niblack was on top of his game from the start against the Seahawks. He scored 12 of Wildwood’s 18 first-quarter points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Niblack, who is averaging 24.6 points, finished with 33 points (12 of 23 from the field), five rebounds, six assists and six steals and had plenty of help. 

Franklin County (20-9) knew all about Niblack but couldn’t do anything to stop him. 

“He just makes a lot happen,” Seahawks coach Nathan West said. “He draws so much attention to himself with his ballhandling and shooting, so he’s a tough match-up for us.” 

Nate Mikell heated up in the second quarter with a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. He shot 7-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range. Alfred Corbin added 16 points and 12 rebounds. 

Franklin County senior Simon Brathwaite, who is averaging 20.6 points, tried to match Niblack point for point, especially in the first half. Brathwaite scored 17 points in the first half, including 13 in the second quarter, and finished with 25 points and six rebounds. He shot 9-of-16 from the field. Lamarius Martin scored 20 points. 

After leading by nine points after the third quarter, Wildwood went up by 10 early in the second quarter, 23-13, but Franklin County went on a 14-6 run to make it a two-point game with less than three minutes to play. 

Mikell’s back-to-back 3-pointers in the middle of a 10-2 Wildwood run helped the Wildcats again go up by 10 before Daijon’s Penamon’s 3-pointer cut Wildwood’s lead to seven points at the half.

Wildwood quickly went back up by double digits to start the second half after Jeremiah Tisme’s 2-pointer and Mikell’s 3-pointer, and Franklin County couldn’t get back to within single digits until early in the fourth quarter.

“We had sort of a slow first half, but I thought we came in at halftime and made some adjustments,” said Wildwood coach Marcus Hawkins said. “The third quarter was definitely a much better effort defensively. We tried to throw a couple of different things at them. Franklin County is a resilient group.” 

Martin’s basket cut Wildwood’s lead to 62-53 with 6:22 to play. The Seahawks had the chance to make it a six-point game, but Penamon’s 3-pointer rimmed out. Wildwood then put away Franklin County with a 10-3 run to go up by 16 with about two minutes left.  

FRANKLIN COUNTY (62): Milalin Huckeba 0-0 0-0 0, Simon Brathwaite 9-16 7-8 25, Eden Brathwaite 1-3 0-0 2, Daijon Penamon 4-9 0-1 9, Lamarius Martin 9-18 0-2 20, Rufus Townsend 0-0 0-0 0, Grady Escobar 2-6 0-0 6, Alex Hardy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 7-11 62. 

WILDWOOD (76): Kris Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Nate Mikell 7-10 0-0 17, Jeremiah Tisme 3-8 0-0 6, Marcus Niblack 12-23 6-8 33, Alfred Corbin 6-13 4-7 16, Johnnethan Goins 0-1 0-0 0, Jaquan McCants 0-0 0-0 0, Nyzeer Lucas 0-2 2-2 2, Joe Poyser 1-1 0-0 2, Ja’cyron Thompson 0-0 0-2 0, Bakarri Williams 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-60 12-19 76.

Franklin County;9;23;17;13;—;62 

Wildwood;18;21;21;16;—;76

3-point goals: FC 5-19 (S.Brathwaite 0-1, Penamon 1-6, Martin 2-6, Escobar 2-6), Wildwood 6-16 (Mikell 3-3, Tisme 0-1, Niblack 3-8, Corbin 0-2, Goins 0-1, Williams 0-1). Rebounds: FC 32 (Penamon 8), Wildwood 35 (Corbin 12). Assists: FC 9 (S.Brathwaite 3), Wildwood 9 (Niblack 6). Steals: FC 3 (Penamon, Townsend, Escobar 1), Wildwood 11 (Niblack 6). Records: Franklin County 20-9, Wildwood 18-12.