Franklin Community boys basketball coach Jerry Bomholt sat through eight games waiting for his Grizzly Cubs to turn a corner by exerting themselves defensively.
Turns out No. 9 was the charm.
Extending its 1-2-2 zone defense in an effort to harass Whiteland’s young backcourt, Franklin posted a 57-40 victory against the Warriors in Friday night’s first semifinal game at the Johnson County Tournament.
The win qualifies Franklin (7-2) for this evening’s title game matchup against Center Grove on the Cubs’ home floor. The Trojans improved to 7-4 by defeating Edinburgh in Friday’s second semifinal.
“We have not played well defensively, and we practiced hard on that all this week,” said Bomholt, whose squad forced the Warriors into 13 turnovers and chilly 14-of-39 (.359) shooting from the floor.
“We got some easy baskets early and didn’t relinquish the lead.
We were able to pressure their guards (freshman Mike Valle and sophomore Terr’e Moss) and do it without fouling.”
Franklin meant business from the outset, racing to a quick 9-0 lead before Whiteland began chipping away behind a pair of 3-point hoops from senior swingman John Hubler.
The Warriors closed to within a single point early in the second quarter at 12-11, but the Grizzly Cubs put together an 11-0 scoring flurry with four different players contributing points.
Trailing 24-16 at the half, Whiteland used a bucket by senior forward Jacob Stidham early in the third stanza to make it a six-point game.
Again Franklin responded, this time riding the hot hand of senior guard Christian Dickmann to hold a 34-20 advantage late in the third. Bomholt’s team then proceeded to tally 21 fourth-quarter points to put the game away.
Dickmann’s 14 points led four Franklin starters in double-figures. Guard Bryce Platfoot and forward Nick King each contributed 13 points, with junior guard Dylan Phair next in line with 11.
The Cubs made 18 of 37 (.486) field-goal tries and were 19 of 26 (.731) from the free-throw line. Franklin also turned the ball over only nine times.
“I thought it was a good collective effort tonight,” Bomholt said. “We got some really good contributions.”
The 6-foot-5 Hubler with a game-high 17 points turned out to be the lone double-digit scorer for Whiteland (6-6). The other 11 Warriors teamed to produce 23 points.
Stidham crashed the glass with a vengeance for Whiteland, corralling a game-best 12 rebounds.
Second-year Whiteland coach Matt Wadsworth, whose Warriors coming in had won four of their previous five games, said he thought his players simply didn’t move the basketball quick enough to combat Franklin’s intense pressure.
“I thought in practice we worked specifically on that scenario. We just held the ball too long,” Wadsworth said. “When you look at the game, they beat us on the glass. Their offensive rebounding hurt us.”
Whatever tendencies were extracted from Friday’s game will no doubt be beneficial in six days when the teams again meet at Franklin.
“When we subbed out our starters at the end of the game, I told them to remember how this feels,” Wadsworth said.