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Adjustments key Franklin County victory over Bulldogs

By Tyler Whittamore, Sports Editor

CENTERVILLE – Offensive efficiency and patience helped send the Franklin County varsity boys' basketball team to its second victory of the year on Saturday night, December 2. More importantly, it was the Wildcats' ability to make adjustments during the contest that helped the team pick up a 53-43 win over the Centerville Bulldogs.

A poor start put FC behind early, but the team was able to make the proper corrections to make a comeback attempt. The Wildcats struggled at the beginning of each of their first two games as well. Franklin County lost the season opener against Milan but rallied to defeat Law-renceburg in the second game. On Saturday night, the 'Cats surged ahead of Centerville in the second quarter and held on for the win.

It took almost two minutes for either team to score in the contest. A three-pointer from FC's Dylan Little put the visitors on top first. The Bulldogs tied it on an old-fashioned three-point play. After a steal and layup by Wildcat senior, Ben Krider, Centerville got its first lead of the night on a trey by Justin Dupree.

Once they had the lead, the Bulldogs continued to pile on, eventually doubling up the 'Cats, 10-5. This prompted a timeout from a frustrated FC head coach Eric Ebrens. Over the final two-and-a-half minutes, FC scored five points to tie the game, 10-10. The final two marks came at the free-throw line from Krider after a foul at the buzzer.

“I don't know what it is about high school kids, but I think that sometimes they just aren't ready when the tip goes up,” Coach Ebrens said. “We've had that in all three of our games, but I'm not sure what to do to change it.”

The first two minutes of the second quarter were a see-saw battle with five lead changes, as both teams battled for control. A three-point shot by Trevor Murray with 5:51 left in the first half gave the Wildcats an 18-16 advantage. While the remainder of the game would be filled with tension, the 'Cats would never relinquish the lead again.

Franklin County extended its first half lead by as many as six, but a three-point shot by Dupree inside the final minute cut the lead back to three. The two teams entered their respective locker rooms with FC leading, 26-23.

While the Wildcats were able to contain the majority of Center-ville’s roster in the first half, the team really struggled to defend Dupree. The Bulldog senior had his way with the FC defense in the first two quarters, scoring 15 of the home team's 23 points. Dupree was 6-for-11 (56 percent) from the field in the first half.

While Ebrens knew that Dupree would be the offensive focus for Centerville, adjustments had to be made at halftime by FC to stop the senior Bulldog. With renewed effort to deny Dupree the ball, the Wildcats were somehow able to keep him off the board in the second half. After scoring 65 percent of this team's offense in the first half, Dupree was held scoreless in the final two quarters, going 0-for-5 from the field.

“I wrote on our board before the game to contain No. 24 (Dupree) and box out,” Coach Ebrens said. “At halftime, my message was that we had needed to do a better job. We denied him in the second half and tried to make sure he couldn't even catch it.” Franklin County's ability to contain the main Bulldog scoring threat helped the visitors to extend their lead in the third quarter. A patient Wildcat team only scored 10 points in the period, but Centerville was held to just six points on 3-of-13 (23 percent) shooting.

The final quarter began with FC leading by seven points, 36-29. In the first half of the period, the Wildcats extended the lead to double digits before the Bulldogs picked up the pace on the defensive end. A few unforced turnovers by Franklin County allowed the home team to crawl within seven at one point, but FC was able to hold onto the lead for the 10-point win. A dunk from Floyd with 40 seconds left was the exclamation point on the victory.

While Franklin County was outrebounded, 33-26, the team finished the night going 20-for-39 (51 percent) from the field. The Wildcats bettered that percentage at the charity stripe, where FC was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line.

Murray led the 'Cats in scoring with 16 points. The senior was 4-for-5 (80 percent) from three-point range. Franklin County has had a different scoring leader in each of its first three games.

Little added nine points, while Jordan Floyd added eight points. Tyler Nichols and Braydon Ertel chipped in six each.

Dupree still led Center-ville with his 15 first-half points. Kody Witham scored 12, while Dalton Stevens and Dante Torres each had six. Dupree finished with a game-high 15 rebounds, followed by 12 from Witham.

Franklin County will enjoy its first double-weekend of the season this Friday and Saturday night, December 8 and 9. On Friday, the 'Cats will visit Rushville (0-3) in an EIAC matchup. The following night, FC will host South Dearborn (2-1) in a non-conference bout.

“It will be nice that the double-weekend is at home,” Coach Ebrens said. “I told the guys to enjoy this win tonight and tomorrow, but come Monday we have to get ready for Rush-ville.”

Both nights are slated to begin with the junior varsity contest at 6 p.m. The varsity games will follow.