Franklin builds early lead, gets past Jennings County

With the regular season winding down and the sectional looming next week, Franklin boys basketball coach Brad Dickey wanted to make sure his starters didn’t have to overexert themselves in Friday’s game against Jennings County.

He rotated five players at a time on and off the court on several occasions during the game, and the Grizzly Cubs’ bench did their part against the visiting Panthers’ seven-man rotation.

Aided by a 10-0 start, Franklin built its lead to 23 at one point, then weathered some hot 3-point shooting down the stretch to preserve a 72-59 win.

The victory ended the regular season at 14-9 for the Cubs, who will play Franklin Central or Whiteland in next Friday’s Class 4A Greenwood Sectional semifinal. Jennings County fell to 5-18.

“We wanted to use more players and reduce the starters’ minutes,” Dickey said of Franklin’s rotations Friday. “We scheduled it; we wanted to make sure plenty of guys played. It affected the pace positively and negatively at times.”

Franklin’s ball movement led to good looks all night. The Grizzly Cubs shot 61.4 percent (27 of 44) from the field, with several of those buckets coming off good looks to find teammates open underneath the basket or on the weak side.

That helped Franklin build a 56-33 lead early in the fourth quarter. Jennings County cut well into that deficit, hitting 8 of its 14 3-point tries in the period, and whittled the lead down to 62-53 with 2:50 remaining, but the Cubs made enough plays down the stretch to keep the game from getting closer.

“We’ve had our stretches this season where we’ve handled the ball well,” Dickey said of the Cubs’ good ball movement Friday. “We had to remind ourselves we’re one of the worst zone defense teams of all time. Once we switched back to man-to-man and got some tips and steals, we were able to make the plays we needed.”

Cory Richards and Drew Byerly led Franklin with 15 points apiece, and Richards found Byerly and Nate Sellers alone under the basket on several occasions for easy layups. Reece Thomson added 14 points, while Sellers, Franklin’s lone senior, scored nine and Blaine Wentzell seven.

The Cubs’ bench contributed 12 points among seven players and held Jennings County’s bench scoreless.

“We’ve had enough success to have hope,” Dickey said, analyzing Franklin’s regular season. “We’re going to try to make the adjustments we need so that we have a better chance.”

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Adam Wire is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.