‘Cats advance to semifinals
By Tyler Whittamore, Sports Editor
GREENSBURG – The Franklin County varsity boys' basketball team took advantage of its seeding in the first round of the 2018 Sectional 29 tournament at Greensburg on Wednesday, February 28. With their season on the brink, the Wildcats played good basketball, leading to a 47-34 win for FC.
The postseason victory was the second for Franklin County in the last two years. In 2016, the Wildcats picked up a win over Rushville in the first round. Prior to that, Franklin County had not won a sectional contest since 2002.
With lots of time to prepare, the Wildcats executed a gameplan that found holes in the Madison defense and kept the Cubs from scoring at the other end. Madison shot just 10-for-26 (39 percent) from the field, and the team was held to just four offensive rebounds. The Wildcats, on the other hand, shot 14-for-30 (47 percent) from the field and outrebounded the Cubs by a 22-15 margin.
“I thought our effort was great the whole game,” FC head coach Eric Ebrens said after the game. “We played really well for about 28 minutes tonight.”
Even though FC played a good game, the team still needed help from Madison. The Cubs struggled with field goal percentage, but they also missed many opportunities at the free throw line. Madison made many trips to the charity stripe, but few of them resulted in points for the team. When the contest ended, the Cubs were just 9-for-20 (45 percent) from the line. The Wildcats were 13-of-18 (72 percent)
“We weren't all that great at free throws either, but (Madison) has a lot of freshmen and sophomore,” Coach Ebrens said. “This is the sectional, and we have lots of seniors on our team. We had a lot more to play for tonight.”
Despite trailing at the start of the game, the Wildcats were able to wrest control away from the Cubs in the first quarter. Madison's Cooper Yancey scored the first four points of the game. A three-pointer and free throw allowed the junior to give his team the advantage.
Franklin County countered with a three-pointer from Dylan Little. A few possessions' later, a trey from Ben Krider gave the Wildcats their first lead of the night, 8-6. Franklin County would never trail again.
After trailing 4-0, Franklin County outscored Madison by 20 points, 32-12 over the next 17 minutes. The Wildcats' biggest lead of the night, 32-16, would come with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter.
“We really mixed up our defense in the third quarter, which helped us run some clock,” Coach Ebrens said. “The team communicated really well on the shooters (for Madison).”
Franklin County owned a 10-8 lead after the end of the first quarter. The Cubs closed to within one point, 14-13, during the second, but the Wildcats held Madison without a field goal in the final six minutes of the period. A free throw from Madison's Carson Livingston was the only point scored. The first half came to an end with FC leading, 22-14.
The Wildcats would continue to lay the pressure on in the third, stretching the lead out to 16 points. A flurry of three-point shots at the end of the period provided some excitement, however. The Cubs were responsible for making three baskets from downtown, while FC collected one. A trey from Yancey at the buzzer cut the FC lead to 10, 37-27, as the final period began.
Three-point shots from both teams began the fourth quarter. Despite all of Madison's efforts, the team could not get the lead under 10 in the final eight minutes. The Wildcats hit 5-of-8 (63 percent) of their free throws down the stretch, holding on for the 13-point victory.
Krider led all players in scoring with 14 points. Little chipped in eight points, while Trevor Murray notched seven points. Krider and Jordan Floyd led FC with six rebounds apiece.
“We had to make the extra pass tonight because (Madison) flocks to the ball,” Coach Ebrens said. “We knew if they collapsed to the paint, we would have open shots from outside, and (Krider) made a few.”
The Cubs were led by Yancey, who scored 12 points. He was followed by Landon Conner with eight points and Ian Strouse with seven. Strouse led the team in rebounds with seven boards.
Madison's loss brought an end to the Cubs' season. The Wildcats earned a rare postseason win to extend their 2017-18 campaign. The win propelled FC to the semifinals on Friday night, March 2, where the team would take Lawrenceburg for a big at a Sectional 29 championship. The Tigers defeated South Dearborn in the first round.