It was a March Madness finish in mid-February.

Franklin County had clawed all the way back from a 16-point deficit early in the second half to tie visiting Switzerland County on a Chad Cox jump shot with 28 seconds left.

The Pacers' Zach Weaver made two trips to the foul line, sinking just one of three attempts. With the score 56-55, Cox penetrated into the lane and dished off to a waiting Aden Gerrian in the left corner. Gerrian rose and fired off a three just ahead of the final horn; as it rattled home, Gerrian was engulfed by a swarm of teammates loving the 58-56 result.

“As bad as we played in the first half, we played a lot better in the second,” said FC head coach Eric Ebrens. “We gave zero effort on the defensive end in the first half. If (Switzerland's) 38 points repeated itself in the second half, we're not winning the game because we can't score 76.”

After watching SC connect on six 3-pointers in the opening half, a Coby Chase triple made it 41-25 two minutes into the third quarter. Freshman Brant Ertel – held to just two points in the first half – started a nice third stanza with a follow-up basket and his lone 3-point make.

“They were able to take some things away from what Brant wanted to do offensively,” Ebrens remarked. “What I did like, he was much better defensively in the second half. If his offense is taken away, he doesn't let it affect other aspects of his game.”

Drew Dixon, honored prior to tip as the Wildcats' one senior, stroked a three from the top of the key to complete an 8-0 FC run. A Weaver bucket pushed the lead back to double digits ahead of a Pacer timeout. An Ertel jumper triggered six unanswered by the home team.

To begin the fourth quarter, Bridger Bolos got loose on the baseline to make the score 43-39. Switzerland Co. answered right back with a Weaver three off an inbound pass. With 5:27 left in the game, Cox hooked up with Gerrian in transition; the latter's layup was good, along with the ensuing free throw.
Pacer senior Damian Breeck - who scored 16 points in the game's opening 12 minutes (also joining the school's 1,000-point club) - snapped his personal scoring skid with a trey at 4:15. Cox scored FC's next four to make it a one-possession game at 51-48. At the 2:20 mark, Lucas Stacy put back a missed free throw before Breeck popped another from long range. Bolos got the three back at the other end, leading into a Wildcat timeout.
Fittingly, Dixon opened Senior Night with a kickout three from Ertel to give the Wildcats an early lead. A 17-footer from Cox and a Weaver drive completed a 5-of-5 streak for both teams. The first miss came on FC's end and Breeck buried a 3-ball for a 9-5 SC lead.

The Pacers finally came up empty at 4:49 and Cox drove in for a tying lay-in. Breeck then went wild, scoring Switz's next 11 points for a 20-11 advantage. Dixon found Gerrian for three late in the period, but Chase scored just ahead of the buzzer.

A JD Stokes putback made it 22-16; the guests quickly got five straight on a Ben Hicks 3 and Weaver's layup. Gerrian passed to Cox on a backdoor cut and the latter added a turnaround in the lane. Cox would get a pair of stickbacks, though Weaver's three bunnies pushed SC's lead to 38-25 at halftime.

Cox and Breeck tied for game-high honors with 22 points each. Weaver added 21 for the Pacers. Ertel finished with 11, followed by Gerrian's 9 and Dixon's 6; Bolos had 5, Stokes 3 and Stacy 2.

SC shot an astounding 62% from beyond the arc, with FC adding an above-average 46%. The Pacers were hurt by 29% foul shooting and were outrebounded 30-27. The hosts recorded 5 steals and 4 blocks.

Franklin County (7-11) plays its final Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference game of the year Friday at Connersville. FC is looking for its first conference win of the season. The Wildcats' last victory against their rival to the north came on Feb. 21, 2014.

Sunday, FC and the rest of the state will learn their sectional draw. Ebrens and his staff will be looking for more consistency leading into the tournament.

“Granted, this was a double weekend and we didn't have as much time for a game plan,” said the coach, “but we've done it enough now that it shouldn't take us as long (to prepare).

“I'm hoping we have more attention to detail on our scouting report and what we need to do defensively,” he added. “We have the ability to score but our inability to consistently get stops has hurt us.”

The junior varsity missed a couple of late attempts in falling to the Pacers 39-37.

AT GREENFIELD-CENTRAL (Feb. 14)

Facing a Class 4A Cougar squad on the road Friday night, the much younger Wildcats were beset by some poor shooting and a bad case of the turnover bug, according to Ebrens. 

“We were 8 percent from the 3-point line and had several turnovers for touchdowns,” he explained of the 58-44 loss. “That's basically a live-ball turnover where they go down and make the layup. All that against a senior-laden team and it's a recipe for a loss.

The 'Cats were down just six at intermission, a deficit that climbed into double figures by the start of the last frame.

Cox led FC with 13 points and 6 rebounds. Ertel scored 10 and Bolos 7; the latter had 3 assists.