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Wildcats win first game of season in OT

By John Estridge, Sports Editor

If anyone wants some magic dust to give away as a Christmas present, go see Franklin County coach Eric Ebrens.

He apparently had to use some during halftime of the game with visiting Centerville, Saturday night, Dec. 1.

FC came back from a 14-point deficit at halftime to defeat Centerville 55-50 in overtime for the Wildcats first victory in the 2018-19 season.

In the first half, the Wildcats couldn't hit the ocean if they were standing beside it, and their defense was lethargic to be nice about it.

However, all that changed when Franklin County tossed the ball in to start the second half.

“We let the kids kind of talk for the first two minutes,” Ebrens said. “We stayed out of the locker room. We told our leaders 'you guys need to get this fixed right now.' They weren't playing hard. I knew we were going to have a sluggish start based on the morning walk-through. Our walk-through wasn't very good Saturday morning. And it carried over to the game where we just let them (Bulldogs) do whatever they wanted to do.

“I told them before the game 'you have to earn a win,'” he continued. “They aren't going to come in here and let you beat them. You have to earn it. Our kids thought we were better than them. But you have to play that way. And they didn't understand that.

“We let the captains have at it and then I went in there and got on them a little bit,” Ebrens said. “They responded.”

The comeback actually started with five seconds left in the first half. Centerville held a 30-13 lead before junior Clayton Spurlock nailed a 3, shrinking the disadvantage to 30-16. Spurlock had two 3s in the first half. There were two more Wildcat field goals in the first half, and that was it. The rest of the Wildcat points came via the free throw line.

In comparison, the Bulldogs had six 3s in the first half. They were ahead 16-5 after the first eight minutes. They held 17-point leads on three occasions in the second quarter.

Then, came the third quarter.

Freshman Chad Cox was the first Wildcat to score in the second half. He had a field goal 23 seconds into the second half, narrowing the deficit to 30-18. Cox scored all of his dozen points in the second half.

“I got on Chad,” Ebrens said. “I told him I knew he was a freshman but that's why he's on the varsity as a freshman: ‘you're starting to score the basketball or you're going to play JV.’ He responded well, and our defensive intensity got better.”

On defense, there were two big changes: the Wildcats put a hand in the face of the shooters, and they did not allow the point guard to pass the ball at will.

“We made an adjustment on their point guard,” Ebrens said. “He was penetrating and then he would kick it out. The scouting report was he looks to facilitate first, score second. And they adhered more to that scouting report in the second half, which enabled us to put together that big run.”

Centerville did not score a point until almost two-and-a-half minutes into the second half. That was two shots on a technical that followed a double foul, making the score 32-22.

But the Wildcats just took a collective breath and continued the comeback. A 12-0 Wildcat run resulted in the first Wildcat lead since the 6:25 mark of the first quarter. With 45 seconds left in the third quarter, Spurlock hit a reverse layup to put the Wildcats on top 34-32.

Centerville did not get its first field goal in the second half until Bulldog junior Nate Reed scored on an offensive put back to narrow the score to 38-36. There was 5:20 left in the game. Centerville's last field goal came with 45 seconds left in the first half, so the Bulldogs went 11:25 without a field goal. It wasn't the Bulldogs were shooting that bad. It was they could not even get shots. The Bulldogs were credited with a half dozen turnovers in the third quarter alone.

However, the drama was far from over.

FC held a six-point lead, 42-36, with just four minutes left in the game. Cox hit a floater. He had penetrated the Bulldog defense.

“He's got a quick first step,” Ebrens said.

With 1:30 remaining, the Wildcats still had a five-point lead, 44-39 after junior Brady Bogan stole the ball and went coast to coast for the score.

But on the next possession, the Bulldogs stole the ball and made a field goal to cut it to 44-41. Then, the Bulldogs senior forward Clete Schilling made his second 3 of the fourth quarter. He had not attempted a 3 in the season up to this point, Ebrens said. He was 2-2 in the fourth. It tied the game at 44-44, which is the way the fourth quarter ended.

“We haven't been there before,” Ebrens said. “We had a five-point lead, with the ball, and they (Bulldogs) go to trap. We've got kids on the floor that have never been against that. We called a timeout and went 2-1-2. We told them we wanted layups and free throws.”

However, a senior got the ball in the middle. Instead of moving to the basket, he passed the ball to the wing. And the wing player tried a cross-court pass. It went the way of most cross-court passes as a Centerville steal and field goal.

A young team without a victory could have let down at that point, but the Wildcats did not.

Spurlock again was the impetus, hitting a 3 55 seconds into the overtime period. Senior Donte Torres responded with a 3 on the Bulldog end, tying the game again 47-47 with 2:30 left.

But that was that. Senior Jordan Floyd hit one of two free throws at 1:41 to give his team a lead they did not relinquish. Floyd again went one-for two at the 54 second mark, making the score 49-47. An intentional foul was called on the Bulldogs, and sophomore Josh Bauman had to shoot his two free throws all alone as with an intentional foul, the team gets the ball out of bounds after the free throws. Bauman nailed both, making it 51-47.

Each time a foul was called on the Bulldogs in the overtime, the fouler was heading to the bench with five fouls. Three Bulldogs fouled out in the overtime. The foul differential was 24 fouls called on the visitors to 16 whistled on the home team. As a result, the Wildcats were 19-for-30 (63 percent) from the free throw line while the Bulldogs were just eight-of-14 (57 percent).

Centerville freshman Jamari Pamplin, playing for the first time in the game, hit a 3 but it was too little too late. Spurlock nailed two free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining for the final score.

Spurlock led the Wildcats with 23 points. Cox added a dozen points and Floyd was next with 11.

Torres had a team-high 13 points for the Bulldogs while junior guard Nate Reed finished with 10. FC improved to 1-2 on the season while the Bulldogs are now 0-4. FC plays host to Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference foe Rushville Friday night. The Lions are 0-2 but have lost to a very good Shelbyville team and a decent Connersville team.

Saturday night the Wildcats travel to another EIAC foe South Dearborn, which is 1-2.

In the junior varsity game, the Wildcats defeated Centerville 45-36.

For the second game in a row, the Wildcats were led by freshman Aden Gerrian. He scored 15 points Tuesday night and 18 points against Centerville. Sophomore Denver Meier finished with eight points, and junior Zach Jewell had seven.