Pirates win seventh straight title, end Wildcats’ postseason run
By Tyler Whittamore, Sports Editor
GREENSBURG – The Franklin County varsity boys' basketball team did not have quite enough in the tank to overcome the Greensburg Pirates in the championship game of the Sectional 29 tournament last Saturday night, March 3. The Wildcats gave it their best shot, but Greensburg proved to be too much in a 48-35 decision.
After trailing early, the Wildcats surged back to tie the game in the third quarter. The Pirates responded, however, outscoring FC by a 20-7 margin in the final 11 minutes of the contest. As the deficit grew in the later stages, Franklin County was forced to hoist shots and try to score quickly, something the team is unaccustomed to doing. Out of their comfort zone, the 'Cats struggled in their attempt to catch back up to Greensburg.
The closing moments of each quarter also hurt the Wildcats. Greensburg scored on the final point in each of the four periods. The Pirates scored on their final possessions of the first and second quarters, beating the buzzer each time to kill any momentum build by FC.
“Good teams execute at critical moments,” FC head coach Eric Ebrens said. “We had the chance a couple of times to hold the ball and wait for the last shot, but we weren't able to do that.”
With the win, the Pirates secured their seventh straight Sectional title. While Franklin County has yet to win a championship in the school's history, it was the first time the Wildcats had fought for a sectional trophy in 16 years. The last time FC won two postseason games and participated in the championship game was 2002. In that year, the 'Cats defeated Greensburg in a 5-OT thriller, followed by an eight-point victory over South Dearborn to advance to the final, where they fell to Whiteland, 68-55.
“Anytime you get to a sectional final, it helps build the program.” Coach Ebrens said. “I value tournament wins a lot more than regular season wins, and that will always be the focus.”
On Saturday night, the Wildcats fell behind by four points after the tip. A three-point shot from Trevor Murray closed the gap to one, but the only other basket FC hit in the first was a layup from Jordan Floyd. Greensburg held the ball for the final possession of the period. With three seconds left on the clock, the Pirates' Mason McLeod drove in and laid the ball in, giving his team a 12-5 advantage when the buzzer sounded.
The only quarter where FC outscored Greensburg was the second. The period began with a three-pointer from Clayton Spurlock. With just under a minute left in the half, the Wildcats trimmed the lead to three on a free throw from Spurlock.
Once again, however, the Pirates held the ball for the final shot. Greensburg burned up more than 40 seconds of clock before Andrew Welage drove in and hit a floater with three seconds remaining. The Pirates took a 20-15 lead into the break.
Greensburg scored the first two points of the second half, but the first five minutes of the third quarter were dominated by FC. On the strength of seven points in the quarter by Floyd, the Wildcats were able to come back and tie the game. A floater in the lane from Ben Krider knotted the score at 28-28 forcing a Greensburg timeout.
Momentum swung back the other way after that, however, and Greensburg scored the final six points in the period, giving them a 34-28 advantage as the final quarter began. According to Coach Ebrens, then change in FC's luck was the result of an inopportune charge call on FC in the third.
“I was proud of our effort to get the game tied back up,” Coach Ebrens said, “but that charge call killed us. It wasn't a charge in my eyes, but it made a difference because we couldn't mentally come back from it.”
The Wildcats did not get a basket until the 6:13 mark of the fourth. By then, the Pirates had built a 10-point lead. The closest FC would come in the final few minutes was five points, but free-throw shooting by the Pirates helped the home team keep the lead. A lay-in from Murray with 2:03 left in the game was the final basket of the season for the Wildcats.
Franklin County was 12-of-31 (39 percent) from the field in the contest, but it could not compare to the 18-for-30 (60 percent) rate by the Greensburg Pirates. The Wildcats did keep the home shutout from beyond the arc, however, as Greensburg was 0-for-5 from three-point range.
Pirate sophomore, Andrew Welage, led all players in scoring with 20 points. Lane Sparks (12) and Drew Comer (10) both scored in double digits as well. Sparks had a game-high four rebounds.
Floyd was the only player to reach double digits for FC. The junior deposited 11 points in the scorebook. Murray added seven points, while Dylan Little scored five.
The season and career came to an end for seven FC seniors. The Pirates will continue their season at the Southridge Regional tournament. Greensburg will face Evansville Bosse in the first round, with a chance to face either Silver Creek or the home in the championship.