Franklin boys basketball coach Brad Dickey thought his team would have to be just about perfect to knock off sectional host Franklin Central on Friday night.
For a little more than three quarters, the Grizzly Cubs were pretty close to it – but in the end the Flashes were able to stave off the feisty underdogs and finish off a 57-45 win.
“Our guys believed that they could put it together, and so did most of our fans,” Dickey said. “We had some exciting moments throughout our season and throughout our night, and it just didn’t end like we wanted it to.”
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Franklin (14-9) kept the pace deliberate from the outset, routinely holding the ball for a minute or more on its possessions. The Grizzly Cubs’ patience paid off at times, with players able to find cutting teammates for open shots.
Down 12-7 early in the second quarter, the Grizzly Cubs put together seven straight points behind Tyler Craft and Drew Byerly to pull ahead 14-12 with 5:10 remaining in the half. The Flashes (11-12) bounced back by closing the period with a 9-2 surge, taking advantage of some late Franklin turnovers to head into the break with a 21-16 edge.
Franklin got within one, 25-24, on 3-pointers from Cory Richards and Craft early in the third period before Franklin Central responded with three consecutive buckets to build its largest lead of the game to that point, 31-24, by the 2:02 mark.
Reece Thomson hit a 3-pointer and a pullup jumper to start the fourth quarter, getting the Grizzly Cubs back within a pair at 34-32. But the Flashes once again responded, this time with a Jake Cerbone 3, and the home squad outscored Franklin 13-3 over the next four-plus minutes to slowly tighten its grip on victory.
“They executed their big men plays,” Dickey said. “That’s why they’re good. They have those massive inside players that execute well, and we fought with them a bunch, but we just came up a couple short.”
Craft and Thomson each finished with 11 points to lead the Grizzly Cubs, who defied expectations this season to repeat as Mid-State Conference champions, running the table in league play for their first outright crown in 30 years.
“Who didn’t doubt us?” asked Craft, who will be graduating along with fellow starters Hunter Gross and Jacob Rockey. “I don’t think anyone expected us to have the season that we did and go 6-0 in the conference and win it back-to-back.
“I know there’s one person for sure that never doubted us all season, and that was Coach Dickey. … I couldn’t be more proud of the things we did.”