Franklin and Roncalli didn’t play a regular-season boys basketball game until last season, when the Grizzly Cubs eked out an overtime win.
Based on Tuesday’s outcome, the schools might consider making the series permanent, from competitive and entertainment standpoints.
The Rebels’ Bryson Meek drove the lane and hit a layup with two seconds remaining to send the game to overtime, and Roncalli took over in the extra session this time, pulling away for a 71-62 win against the Grizzly Cubs.
Before last season, Franklin and Roncalli last played in a sectional game in 1997, when the Cubs beat the Rebels en route to a regional title in the final season of single-class basketball. Tuesday’s win was Roncalli’s first against Franklin in five tries.
“This was a great win for us,” Rebels coach Michael Wantz said. “I think (Franklin coach) Brad (Dickey) does an outstanding job. They’re strong, tough, experienced, and they do a great job of running their stuff. It took us a quarter and-a-half to match their toughness, but once we did, I thought we did OK.”
The Cubs (13-6) led 59-57 after Jarrett Bertsch hit two free throws with 12.5 seconds left, but the Rebels’ Meek, who scored 15 of his career-high 21 points in the second half, drove the lane and hit a short floater with about two seconds left.
The clock ran out before Franklin could inbound the ball.
“We had to expend way too much energy just to survive this game,” Dickey said. “We hung on as long as we could. I’m proud of the guys.”
The game featured seven ties and 13 lead changes before Roncalli (13-6) finally took the lead for good, thanks in large part to Christian Stewart.
His 3-pointer with 2:51 left in overtime gave the Rebels a 65-62 lead. Then he scored on a transition layup off a Franklin miss to give the Rebels a 67-62 lead, and hit a layup off a Franklin turnover just seconds later to effectively put the game away.
Stewart led everyone with 23 points. Andrew Fey added 14 points for Roncalli.
Andrew Smith led Franklin with 22 points, including an off-balance, banked-in 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to give the Cubs a 45-44 lead, but Meek blanketed him throughout the fourth quarter and overtime. He only took one shot the rest of the way.
“We didn’t call his number toward the end,” Dickey said. “We had Bertsch and (Andrew) Hartkorn scoring, and we’re a better basketball team when everyone’s scoring.”
Hartkorn finished with 13 points despite being guarded much of the game by 6-foot-10 Collin Sonderman. Bryce Wentzell added 11 for Franklin, and Bertsch and Hunter Gross each scored eight.
Franklin committed just seven turnovers, but Roncalli offset that by hitting 24 of 41 from the floor (58.5 percent), including 10 of 15 from 3-point range. The Rebels also owned a 28-18 rebounding edge.
“They’re a hard match-up,” Dickey said of Roncalli. “They have good players, great size, and we needed to help in too many spots on the floor, but I was proud of the way our guys handled that.”
Franklin can clinch at least a share of the Mid-State Conference title Friday with a home win over Decatur Central. The Cubs, Whiteland and Martinsville each own 4-1 league records.