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Balance, depth, defense help Grizzly Cubs succeed

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Girls high school basketball seasons don’t offer the option of asterisks, do-overs and excuses.

The final won-loss record is the mirror’s reflection. It’s what you are.

At Franklin Community High School, a 2012-13 season filled with adversity continues to be a source of inspiration, and even pride, for a program on pace to produce a double-digit victory total for the sixth time in seven years.

The Grizzy Cubs take a 9-6 record into tonight’s home game against Perry Meridian, an opponent that applied a 67-48 hurt on Franklin a year ago.

Without starting guards Tara Parmer (ACL injury) and Sarah VanDeman (injuries sustained in an automobile accident) for nearly all of last season, coach Walt Raines relied on younger players, who had little choice but to mature quickly.

Consequently, the Cubs dropped 10 of their final 12 games to finish with a 7-14 record.

“It was, by far, the most trying season we’ve ever had with injuries and being young,” Raines said of what was his 25th team overall at Franklin. “It was kind of like the perfect storm.

“The biggest thing is we tried to stay positive and for everyone to give 100 percent, and they did.”

Bad times often are the ground floor for growth. The Cubs are a prime example.

Franklin is averaging 52.8 points a game after reaching the 50-point plateau only four times last season. Its defensive average (44.1 ppg) is in stark contrast to the group that surrendered a 52.3 norm over those final dozen games.

“When last season was over we knew we were going to be better because of it,” Raines said. “We went into this season playing like Franklin has always played.”

This Franklin squad has been extremely balanced at the offensive end, with six players averaging between 3.6 points and the 12.4 of Parmer, a 5-foot-4 senior.

The return of Parmer, who also leads Franklin in rebounds (5.4), assists (3.4) and steals (3.7), has been a stabilizing force. Her leadership is but one of many of her qualities not seen in Grizzly Cubs’ box scores and game write-ups.

“It was tough sitting on the bench last year during games, but being able to interact with my teammates on and off the court has been fun,” Parmer said. “Just knowing it’s not one person doing the work. We have depth, and that’s been good for us.

“Everyone has had a chance to contribute.”

Joining Parmer in Raines’ three-guard starting lineup are 5-7 sophomore guard Maci Eads (9 ppg, 3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 10 blocks) and 5-7 freshman guard Delanie Hill (8.3 ppg, 2.0 spg). The frontliners are seniors Aeja Ross (4.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg) and Vanessa Kinsey (3.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg).

Bench play has also been a positive for Franklin, as Raines uses as many as 11 players in a game.

Senior guard Brooke Pleak (4.3 ppg), 6-2 junior post Liz Berrones (2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, team-high 14 blocks) and 5-7 junior forward Julia Smith (2.8, 3.7) give their coach plenty of options. Junior forwards Morgan McCarter and Mary Kate Harris also are called upon, as is 5-5 freshman guard Cami Cochrane.

By averaging 13.7 steals, Franklin is forcing foes into an average of 21.8 turnovers a game. The Cubs also are succeeding on the boards (30.2 to 29.4). They’ve nearly doubled up opponents on the offensive glass (205 to 119) and in assists (11.1 to 6.3).

“With this group, it’s just their effort. They work hard and everyone wants to get better,” Raines said. “Defensively, we need to become more disciplined. At times we’re so aggressive we forget the basics. On offense, sometimes we forget to use our quickness. We don’t always push the ball up the court the way we should.”

Those are wrinkles Franklin attempts to iron out with six regular-season games remaining. Wrinkles a coach can live with, particularly given where the Cubs were at this time last year.

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