It's been six seasons since Franklin County High School boys basketball last embarked on a winning campaign and a first-round sectional loss to the Batesville Bulldogs has ended each of the last three.

Beginning Saturday night against Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference foe South Dearborn, a senior-led Wildcat squad and first-year head coach Mark Foster will look to reverse the trend and flip some 'L's' into 'W's.'

“We are looking forward to this year's basketball season and hope to be able to get the fans some victories,” says Foster, a recent FC Athletic Hall of Fame inductee and varsity assistant under Eric Ebrens (50-84) since 2015.

“We have a great group of guys who have done everything that has been expected of them since June,” adds the former Wildcat guard.

Front and center – and sure to receive a lot of attention on opponents' scouting reports – is 6-foot-4-inch senior Chad Cox. The two-time all-EIAC player is on the short list for conference MVP favorites, along with Connersville guard Tobey Billups and a few others.

Cox averaged 18.2 points and 6 rebounds per game last season, both team highs. He led FC in assists with 55 and was good on 54% of his shots.

Cox is one of three seniors who are elderly varsity statesmen after being inserted into the lineup as freshmen back in 2018-19. Bridger Bolos and Aden Gerrian also saw quality minutes that winter.

That's why Foster is quick to note “experience” as the team's primary strength.

Bolos (8.3 ppg) is the Cats' designated defensive stopper and had a team-best 28 steals to prove it. Gerrian is an outside threat, bringing a 4.3 average and 21 swipes to the table. Senior JD Stokes enters his third varsity year in the low post; the 6-6 Stokes put in 5.1 ppg one year ago.

Foster says his projected starting lineup “is always changing, with guys improving daily.”

But one can safely pencil in junior guard Brant Ertel, already with two varsity letters on his jacket. Ertel (6-0) pumped in 11.6 points a night as a sophomore and was second only to Cox in scoring and rebounding; his 36 3-pointers topped the Wildcats.

Others looking to see the opening tip firsthand are senior Austin Hill (6-2), juniors Jace Lee (6-0), Peyton McCreary (5-10), Brady Morehead (5-10), Tanner Weartz (6-3) and Landon Wuestefeld (5-8). Sophomore point guard Eli Butt will also compete for playing time.

The Wildcats will learn rather quickly where they stand in the EIAC this year. Four of the team's first six games are against league rivals, including the home and road (at Lawrenceburg Tuesday) openers.

“Until someone can knock off Connersville, they would be the frontrunners,” Foster believes. “All in all, though, there are a number of teams that can compete for conference.”

The Spartans ran unbeaten through the EIAC last year, then advanced to the regional final where they gave a scare to the eventual Class 3A state champ Silver Creek.

Before the New Year, FC will host a holiday tourney Dec. 22 (Hamilton Heights, Seton Catholic and Triton Central are invitees) and new opponent Muncie Central Dec. 28. Another unfamiliar date has Central Christian Academy of Indianapolis visiting Feb. 12. An early 4-game road trip gives way to a 5-gamer from Jan. 29-Feb. 11; three of those late-season ventures go across state lines (Talawanda in Oxford, Ohio, Campbell County in Alexandria, Kentucky, and the Ross Rams of Ohio).

Sectional 29 is essentially an EIAC tournament without the presence of East Central. Foster circles Connersville as the team to watch, but notes the quality of teams like South Dearborn, Lawrenceburg and Greensburg.
Although he doesn't wish to ever see his team on the shorthanded side of IHSAA's new basketball mercy rule, Foster says he doesn't mind the new decision.

“In games like that, neither team is getting much out of the game at that point anyway,” he adds. “All starters for both teams are generally on the bench and both coaches are generally wanting to move on at that point.”

If one team owns at least a 35-point edge in the second half, the clock will stop only for timeouts, quarter break and foul shooting.

Saturday's junior varsity contest tips off at 6 p.m. at Wildcat Gym.