It’s been 15 years since Franklin County last competed in a sectional at Connersville’s Spartan Bowl. Once a major event in the area, especially in the days of the single-class basketball tournament, the Spartans and Wildcats had gone their separate ways when CHS moved up to Class 4A in 2007-08.

The last postseason game for FC at the venerable venue was a 47-45 loss to Greensburg on March 1, 2005. Connersville remained in the Wildcats’sectional the next two years, though Greensburg and South Dearborn were the host schools. Greensburg hosted 10 of the past 12 years –Madison had the other two –but with Connersville realigned to 3A again, the Spartans will entertain six of their seven Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference rivals.

“A win at the Spartan Bowl versus Connersville will help our psyche going into the sectional,”FC coach Eric Ebrens said of last Friday’s Wildcat victory. “I don’ think this team lacks for confidence, we just lack in experience and consistency. There are competitors on this team, which is obviously a good thing.”

It’s indeed an EIAC party, with East Central (4A) the only conference school not in attendance. 

The opening game is March 3, when the host Spartans face the Lawrenceburg Tigers. Connersville and coach Kerry Brown won back-to-back 4A sectional titles in 2016 and 2017. The Spartans are 12-10. The Lawrenceburg Tigers, coached by John Blackwell, enjoyed a good postseason run from 2007-09 (3 sectional titles) as a 2A school, but have yet to repeat that at the 3A level. LHS is 12-9 after a 49-42 loss to Connersville Saturday.

Wednesday features a doubleheader, starting with South Dearborn and Rushville at 6 p.m. Franklin County and Batesville will tangle in the nightcap.
South Dearborn, currently 9-12 under Kevin Reinhardt, last won a sectional in 1995. Rushville has the least tenured coach in the tourney –Doug Laker’s in just his second year with the Lions –and last advanced to a regional in 2008. The Lions are 6-16. SD won this regular season matchup, 67-52, on Jan. 31.

The Wildcats are still seeking their first sectional title in school history. Brookville was the last county school to bring home the hardware, back in 1988. FC is 8-11. Aaron Garrett’s Bulldogs won this sectional a year ago, bookending a seven-year string for Greensburg - the ‘Dogs also won in 2011. BHS is 10-10 and defeated the ‘Cats 55-40 on Jan. 24.

“We have to finish the season not being satisfied,”said Ebrens, “And understand that at the sectional, everybody’ record is 0-0. Throw the records out and be ready to go.”

The Greensburg Pirates, ranked 5th in the state, are clearly wearing the primary target. The Bucs are 20-2 and have no losses this year to sectional opponents. Stacy Meyer-coached teams have won nine sectionals in his 14 years at the helm, achieving a pair of state titles in that time. 

The Pirates also received the tourney bye, set to face the winner of CHS-Lawrenceburg in Friday’s first semifinal. The second semifinal matches up Wednesday’s survivors. Batesville owns wins over both potential opponents while FC lost to both squads early in the season.

The top players in the tourney (based on scoring average) are Greensburg’s Andrew Welage, Lawrenceburg’s Gavin Yoon and Batesville’s Colt Meyer. Welage is scoring at a 21.7 clip; the Pirate senior is headed to Division I Wright State next year. Yoon’s average is 21.9 and Meyer’s is 20.1. Greensburg junior Lane Sparks also pours in 20.1.

Other notables include FC’s Chad Cox and Brant Ertel, Rushville’s Alec Evans (16), Greensburg’s Miles Wilkison (13.8), Batesville’s Sam Voegele (11.5), Connersville big man Jacob Brown (12.1) and the SD trio of Alex Shackelford, Reese Willoughby and Eli Hoffman.