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Franklin Co. earns first title bid in 16 years

By Tyler Whittamore, Sports Editor

GREENSBURG – The Wildcats earned back-to-back wins in the Sectional 29 tournament last week to secure a title opportunity against the Greensburg Pirates. After winning a contest over Madison in the quarterfinals, Franklin County defeated Lawrenceburg, 41-33, in the semifinals on Friday night, March 2.

The Wildcats had only won one sectional contest in the previous 15 years. With the win over the Tigers, FC earned its chance at the Sectional 29 championship for the first time since 2002.

Despite only hitting 9-of-22 (41 percent) from the free-throw line, Franklin County was able to build a second-half lead and hang on to it. Lawrenceburg was only marginally better at the charity stripe, hitting 6-of-12 (50 percent).

The Wildcats also struggled to hit shots from long range. The team normally relies on three-point shooting to compete, but on Friday night FC was just 2-for-15 (13 percent) from downtown.

“I think our kids felt a little pressure tonight because Lawrenceburg was depleted,” FC head coach Eric Ebrens said. “It showed in our execution, but all that matters at tournament time is winning, and they were able to get the job done.”

Franklin County struggled most in the first half, and it showed on the scoreboard. After trailing by 5-0 mark in the first two minutes, the Wildcats managed to catch up a little by the end of the first period. A steal and layup at the other end for Dylan Little cut the lead to one, 9-8, as the second quarter began.

“We settled down after the first few minutes, but we just shot it so bad tonight,” Coach Ebrens said after the game. “I just think that pressure we put on ourselves was too much.”

The Wildcats took the lead on a basket by Hunter Mayfield to start the next period, but there were four lead changes in the second, as each team fought for control. Three of those lead changes came in the final two minutes. A three-point shot by Lawrenceburg's Mitch McCool allowed the Tigers to take an 18-16 lead into halftime.

Franklin County scored four straight points out of the gate in the third quarter, taking a 20-18 advantage. Despite several runs by the Tigers, FC would never relinquish the lead again. The Wildcats scored the final five points of the third period. A rare three-pointer on the night, coming from Trevor Murray, gave FC a 30-24 lead at the end of the quarter.

The Tigers were held to just 15 points in the second half. Nine of them came in the final period, but the Wildcats scored 11 in the quarter to easily keep the lead. Franklin County hit three of its last four free throws to secure the eight-point victory.

“Obviously the kids are happy, and I'm glad we're moving on,” Coach Ebrens said. “Anytime I can coach in a sectional final, I'll take it.”

Led by seniors, the Wildcats turned the ball over just seven times in the contest. Lawrenceburg, on the other hand, committed 17 turnovers in the contest.

Little led FC in scoring with 10 points. He was followed by nine from Ben Krider and eight from Hunter Mayfield. Jordan Floyd led the team in rebounds with six.

The Tigers' season came to close with the team scoring just 33 points. Lawrenceburg did have two players in double digits, however, as Jason Morton scored 11 and Logan Lawrence came away with 10. The 6-foot-9 Morton led all players with eight rebounds.

Franklin County was set to play in the Sectional 29 championship the next night against the host Greensburg Pirates.

“I told the guys after the game that all the pressure will be on (Greensburg),” Coach Ebrens said. “Nobody is giving us a chance, and they are expected to win.”