Extending what currently is the program’s longest winning streak in seven years carries a high degree of difficulty for the Franklin Community High School boys basketball team.
First-year Grizzly Cubs head coach Jerry Bomholt wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bomholt respects the way Franklin responded after starting the season 0-2, so naturally he’s more than just a little interested to see how the Grizzly Cubs fare having won seven consecutive games by an average margin of 21.8 points.
Attempting to take a pin to this balloon in tonight’s first semifinal at the Johnson County Tournament are the Edinburgh Lancers (7-1), winners of six straight themselves. A victory here places the second-seeded Cubs opposite either Whiteland (5-5) or top-seed Center Grove (5-5) in Saturday night’s championship contest.
“We’ve talked to the players about handling adversity and handling success,” said Bomholt, whose squad is allowing opponents an average of 42.1 points a game, 14th-lowest among all Indiana boys teams. “We’re constantly reminding them of that.”
Various elements factor into Franklin’s success thus far: the combined record of 11-56 by the teams the Cubs have defeated, a thirst for success in the wake of the program notching just 10 victories in 43 games the previous two years and the players’ ability and willingness to adapt to an entirely new system.
“We realize we want to win this year and are putting the effort into it. It’s been there before, but it seems we’re working so much harder this year,” 6-foot-2 senior guard Dalton Hittle said. “I’m having a lot of fun because it’s my last season playing with these players.”
Hittle is one of only three seniors on Bomholt’s first Franklin squad. Others are three-year starting point guard Keenan Wood and 6-6 forward Harrison Smith. Helping complete what has to this point been an eight-player rotation most games are juniors Tyler Thomas and Nick King, a pair of 6-5 front-liners, 6-3 forward Bryce Platfoot and 6-2 guard Christian Dickmann.
Also key has been the play of sophomore guards Branden Hardesty and Dylan Phair.
“Right now we’re at a point where we play eight guys pretty regularly. We have a lot more depth than I thought we would have,” said Bomholt, whose three-guard, two-forward mindset and 1-2-2 zone defense are staples of his 32-year head coaching career.
“What we’ve always found a way to do is (occasionally) sit your best players. You can’t be afraid to do that, or sooner or later it’s going to catch up with you.”
Particularly sectional time where, depending on the draw, a program could wind up playing Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Depth is vital, as is the ability to adjust to the offensive and defensive philosophies offered by opponents.
Edinburgh, for instance, is unafraid to hasten the tempo, already having exceeded 70 points in five of its eight games. Conversely, should the Cubs wind up in the title contest opposite Whiteland, the Warriors are far more deliberate averaging 54.5 points.
Further down the road, Class 4A No. 7 Columbus North (Feb. 9) offers more tall timber than most forests. Martinsville (Jan. 25), Columbus East (Feb. 2), New Palestine (Feb. 7), Perry Meridian (Feb. 12) and Jennings County (Feb. 22) also boast winning records and their own way of doing things.
“From here on out, every team is kind of unique in what they’ll try to do. They’ll all present different problems for us,” Bomholt said. “But the most pleasant thing about our kids is that they’re coachable.
“They’ve been extremely receptive of the changes we’ve asked them to make, and as a result they’ve improved.”