The Franklin County Wildcats entered 2020-21 with a nucleus of eight players returning over 90% of the team’s scoring, steals and assists, while returning nearly 90% of its rebounding power.

But the Cats largely scuffled during the full season of COVID-19 restrictions and distractions, finishing a full game behind the squad’s 2020 record (7-14 to 8-13) and posting a losing mark for the fifth consecutive campaign.
The calendar flipping to 2021 was especially detrimental to the Wildcats’ hopes, as the club went 3-11 after New Year’s following a promising 4-3 start. This included falling in each of the last six Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference contests and coming up flat against Batesville (40-21) at the Greensburg sectional – a third straight year the Bulldogs sent FC packing in the first round.

There were certainly positives along the way, however.

The team’s defensive average went down by four points (from 56.6 points allowed per game to 52.6) while the offensive average ticked up ever so slightly (50.3 to 50.4). Though there were no upsets among the seven wins, Franklin County lost by a collective nine points to South Ripley, Jac-Cen-Del and Greensburg – teams that combined for a 53-15 record.

In the latter game against the state-ranked Pirates, the Wildcats took their conference foe to overtime on the Greensburg court despite playing without team most valuable player and all-EIAC performer Chad Cox.

In his junior campaign, Cox improved across the board. His scoring (16.6 to 18.2) and rebounding averages (5.5 to 6) increased and led the team; he also went up in assists (52 to 55-team best), made 3-pointers (23 to 26), field goal percentage (49 to 54) and free throw accuracy (69 to 73). In 12 of his 20 games, he paced all scorers in points, including a 31-point effort in a win over Union County.

Cox was the sixth choice among the EIAC coaches’ dozen picks for all-conference, receiving the honor for a second straight year. Greensburg’s Lane Sparks received the most votes, earning MVP status.

Sophomore Brant Ertel’s scoring average dipped slightly from his freshman season, but sixth-year coach Eric Ebrens depended on the shooting guard from night to night. He had an 11.6 per diem, made a team-high 36 triples and was second in rebounding and assists. His high-water mark was 27 points in the Greensburg loss. Ertel earned All-Academic status in the EIAC, as did sophomore junior varsity guard Peyton McCreary.

This year’s Wildcat Award went to the elder Ertel, Garrett, whose career ended along with fellow senior Lucas Stacy. Stacy led the team in blocked shots for a second straight time, improving his total from 16 to 18.

Junior Bridger Bolos was tops on the squad in steals with 28 and classmate Aden Gerrian was next with 21. Bolos also scored at an 8.3 clip, up from 7.9 as a sophomore. Gerrian and junior big man JD Stokes pushed their scoring averages up as well – Gerrian from 2.9 to 4.3 and Stokes from 3.4 to 5.1.
Other varsity letter winners were juniors Nathan Stringer, Hunter Geis and Austin Hill and sophomore Jace Lee; Hill won the JV Wildcat Award.

Joining McCreary with JV Participation Awards were Caleb Broering, freshman Eli Butt, Josh Dillhoff, Brady Morehead, Tanner Weartz and Landen Wuestefeld.

Freshmen recognized for participating, along with Butt, were Ben Becker, Matthew Bohman, Ethan Brewer, Branson Galyen, Jesse George, Ethan Herbert, Marcus Kemp, Isaiah Lee, Aydyn Patterson and Nathan Shepherd.
Franklin County placed seventh among eight teams in the conference with a 1-6 record, as the Connersville Spartans ran the table with a 7-0 mark. CHS went on to win the sectional and came within a point of 2nd-ranked Silver Creek at the Class 3A regional championship game.

The team’s eight juniors and seven sophomores will now look ahead to the summer offseason and next winter, hoping their upperclassman status translates to a winning campaign on the hardwood.