As defending champions of the boys Johnson County Basketball Tournament, Franklin already sports a substantial bull’s-eye entering the 2014 event.
Despite, however, a recent six-game winning streak, the Grizzly Cubs are seeded second behind Center Grove.
The Trojans handed coach Jerry Bomholt’s squad its first loss, a 56-44 decision in both team’s season-opener on Nov. 26. On Saturday, the Cubs lost a Mid-State Conference home game against Class 4A No. 10 Mooresville 65-53.
“You would have to say Center Grove is the favorite because they beat us, they’ve beaten Whiteland and Greenwood, and they’re the biggest school,” said Bomholt, whose team took a seven-game winning streak into the 2013 tourney at Edinburgh before edging the host Lancers (52-50) and Center Grove (46-42) for the title.
“This year, like last, the county is pretty balanced,” Bomholt said. “I think when it’s that way, it adds to the excitement.”
As do these storylines:
Greenwood plays tonight at home against Whiteland. It will be the teams’ second meeting in four days after the Warriors won 71-37 at home Saturday night.
Indian Creek playing its first-round game at home while attempting to snap a four-game losing streak to Edinburgh. The Lancers’ recent success in the long-time rivalry has been by an average spread of 4.3 points.
Center Grove’s rust potential. The Trojans, by Friday night’s second semifinal game, will have gone 13 days since their previous outing, a 68-50 loss at Cathedral. They also are on a two-game skid, having lost 62-51 against visiting Perry Meridian on Jan. 3.
Center Grove was supposed to play at Class 4A No. 1 Carmel last Friday, but dismal weather conditions pushed the game back to Jan. 28.
Franklin’s familiar surroundings for games Friday and Saturday. The Cubs are 7-6 on their own hardwood since Bomholt took over prior to the 2012-13 season. Hardly invincible, but still good.
The possibility of another Franklin-Center Grove finale. Remember, the Cubs lost by nine points to the Trojans in last year’s regular-season opener before exacting revenge at county nearly two months later.
Individual star power. County scoring leaders entering this year’s tourney are Michael Benkert of Center Grove (21.2 ppg); Greenwood’s Jaren Hornbeak (20.1); Center Grove’s Tyler Bryant (19.0); two sophomore guards in Edinburgh’s Colin Hoskins (17.4) and Indian Creek’s Cameron Smith (16.8); 6-foot-5 Franklin center Tyler Thomas (15.2); and 6-4 Whiteland forward John Hubler (15.1).
The Johnson County Tournament began in 1921 with the Whiteland Wrens bringing home the title and ran annually until 1965. It picked back up in 2005 after a four-decade hiatus, with Center Grove having since won six championships, and Franklin the other three.
Greenwood last was king of the county in 1965, Edinburgh in 1961, Trafalgar (Indian Creek) in 1958 and Whiteland in 1955.
Center Grove, with 18 titles, leads comfortably over Greenwood and Whiteland with seven apiece. Edinburgh has six.
Lancers coach Drew Glentzer said he thinks a blind draw rather than the current seeding system might be beneficial in generating increased fan interest among the county’s smaller schools.
But until, or unless, that day ever arrives, the opportunity for a Class A program such as Edinburgh to compete against the Class 4A’s not on its regular-season schedule (Franklin, Center Grove, Whiteland) is to be relished.
“We’re a really young team and struggling to score points at times, but this gives us a chance to play some of the other teams in the county,” Glentzer said. “I would say Franklin is the favorite, but then they got beat by Center Grove right out of the gate.”