NORTH VERNON — Franklin looked to be on its way to victory after a 14-0 run in the third quarter put the Grizzly Cubs ahead by double digits.
But Jennings County came roaring back.
The full-court press of the Panthers got to the Grizzly Cubs, but Franklin held on late with great free-throw shooting to seal a 64-55 boys basketball victory and spoil the Panthers’ senior night.
The Grizzly Cubs (14-8) were ahead 53-38 midway through the fourth quarter before the Panthers cut it to 55-51. Franklin went 11-12 from the foul line down the stretch, however.
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“The last couple of practices, we’ve been getting into rhythm and we worked on our free throws,” Franklin coach Brad Dickey said. “Our three seniors (Jacob Rockey, Tyler Craft, and Hunter Gross) have helped us survive those moments.”
It was the final home game for Jennings seniors Tyler Vogel, Bret Sawyer, Nick AmRhein, Chase Ketcham, and Kenneth Jones.
“Our seniors have been super important to our team,” Jennings coach Josh Land said. “They are the best group of seniors, chemistry wise, that I have been around. They like each other and play for each other and are unselfish by any means. They have a tremendous work effort and have never given up all season. Tonight did not end like they wanted it to, but I’m proud of them.”
The Grizzly Cubs were without sophomore Cory Richards, who was out because of the flu, but freshman Drew Byerly stepped up in his absence.
Byerly had one of the best games of his young high school career as he poured in a game-high 22 points.
“It’s a good basketball moment,” Dickey said. “Without our leading scorer, it worked perfectly. Drew gave us a whole different look. Cory will zip by you and shoot one, and Drew will push forward and lay it in or dump it off; he’s a good passer. It was a really good basketball effort out of our team.”
For Jennings (13-10), Vogel finished with 18 points and AmRhein added 13.
Gross finished with 13 points, and Rockey added 11 for Franklin.
The Panthers face another challenge Tuesday when they play defending Class 4A state champion New Albany in the Seymour Sectional.
“From the very beginning of the season, our goal is to win a sectional,” Land said. “This game is just one of our 23 (games) in the process of getting there. We’ll learn from it.
“New Albany’s biggest weapon is intimidation. We played tight for a half earlier this season. With a group of seniors that are veterans and show some toughness, that’s the most important thing.”