Rivalry games played out on a neutral court in a different county are still rivalry games.
Franklin Community’s boys basketball team gutted out a 65-60 semifinal victory against Center Grove on Friday night at the Class 4A Martinsville Sectional.
The third meeting of the season featured 60 free-throw attempts but not a single lead change. The Grizzly Cubs (17-6) advance to this evening’s championship game against Franklin Central.
Senior guards Cameron Smith with 16 points and Jarrett Bertsch with 15 led Franklin, while forward Andrew Hartkorn supplied 12 and junior forward Hunter Gross 10.
Senior Justin Beasley came off the bench to add eight points.
“We just stick to it. We’re kind of a fun group of kids. We’re not especially talented all the time and at all the spots. We make mistakes, and tonight we just didn’t care. We would make a mistake, and we would make up for it,” Cubs coach Brad Dickey said.
“We never did shoot extremely well, but we shot well enough. We clearly played hard enough, and we get to play one more time and that’s all that matters.”
Franklin built as much as an 11-point lead in the first half — 23-12 at 5:25 of the second stanza — and was up a dozen, 45-33, early in the third.
The Trojans refused to go away, clawing to get to within seven points with a quarter to play and whittling it to a single point (55-54) on junior Travis Roehling’s drive to the bucket at 2:37 of the final period.
Twice Center Grove had opportunities to pull ahead but misfired on both occasions. Senior guard Trevor Harrell’s potential game-tying off-balance 3-point attempt from the top of the key was off the mark.
Franklin hit 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:16 — including Gross’s game-clinching charities at 0.2 — to put it away.
Roehling came off the bench to score 21 points for the Trojans, who closed with a 9-16 record. Seniors Bryce Brown (12 points), Harrell (nine) and backup forward Drew Conrad (eight with five rebounds) also performed well in the final game of their high school careers.
“(Franklin) came out with high intensity, and we missed out first three layups of the game. When you miss those and they’re making their shots, it puts you against the wall a little bit,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said.
“I’ll say that our guys were pretty resilient all game, though. There were a couple times where you can let that game get away from you, and they sure didn’t. They fought and fought and fought, and that’s a huge credit to our seniors. I’m just really proud of our seniors. They left everything they had out there.”
Bertsch scored 10 of his points in the first half to lead the Grizzly Cubs to a 37-30 lead at the break.
Franklin led the entire way, jumping out to a 12-6 advantage and growing the lead to as much as 11 points (23-12) with 5:25 remaining before the half.
It’s here the 6-foot-1 Roehling began exerting himself offensively for Center Grove.
The junior’s 12 second-period points were the Trojans’ first 12 points of the stanza; his triple from the left baseline cut Franklin’s lead to 27-22 at the 3:18 mark.
Consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the key by Conrad and Brown got it as close as 31-28, but six points from Bertsch inside the final 1:04 provided more cushion for the Grizzly Cubs.