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Franklin loses thriller in regular-season finale

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Of the hundreds of shots Keenan Wood attempted during varsity competition on his home floor, let it be known the last was from his knees.

And darned near the most unforget­table.

After hauling in Branden Hardesty’s full-court pass with two seconds remaining, Wood, Franklin Community’s 5-foot-11 point guard, lost his balance 12 feet from the basket. The senior had the presence of mind to pick the ball up and launch a shot attempt from his knees, but the ball glanced off the backboard and rimmed out at the buzzer.

Jennings County had escaped Friday night with a thrilling 45-43 victory.

“I knew it was in. I was standing at the perfect angle ... I knew it,” said first-year Panthers coach Joey Hartwell. “I’ve lost so many games so many ways this season that I was sure it was in. Franklin is a great team, and we’re happy to get out of here with a win.”

Junior guard Adrian Kirchner supplied the heroics for the visiting Panthers, his go-ahead 3-pointer from the left wing touching nothing but nylon with 2.4 seconds remaining. Jennings County players and coaches began their celebration thinking time had run out, but officials determined the Grizzly Cubs had in fact called timeout with two ticks showing.

For Franklin, which held a 43-40 advantage following a pair of Christian Dickmann free throws with 25.7 seconds left, it was a heartbreaking way to wrap up an otherwise impressive 14-6 season.

Two one-and-bonus charities from sophomore forward Caleb Eder at 17.7 left pulled Jennings County to within a point. The Grizzly Cubs then turned the ball over on the ensuing possession when the Panthers quickly double-teamed forward Tyler Thomas and forced the junior into a traveling violation.

Jennings County used another timeout at 12 seconds to set up what would be the winning points.

“We have every opportunity in the world to get it to a four-point game, and we didn’t do it,” said Franklin coach Jerry Bomholt. “We travel against their pressure and let it get to where a long ‘3’ beats us, and that’s what happens.

“We have won some close games, but we’re still not tough enough mentally to where we can prevent runs. We just have to be tougher mentally in the tournament.”

Wood’s swan song in the Grizzly Cubs’ gymnasium did result in a game-high 16 points. Hardesty, a wiry 6-4 sophomore who got the start on senior night along with departing 12th-graders Wood, Dalton Hittle and Harrison Smith, finished with eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers for the Cubs.

Kirchner’s 12 points made him the lone double-digit scorer for Jennings County (13-9), which now prepares for the 4A Seymour Sectional that also includes Jeffersonville and New Albany.

The Panthers outrebounded Franklin 24-20 and benefited from the Grizzly Cubs’ frostbitten .381 shooting percentage from the floor (16 of 42). The Panthers, meanwhile, were 16 of 34 (.471).

Jennings County made good on four 3-pointers, two by the 6-foot-1 Kirchner, in the second period to jump out to a 21-15 halftime lead after trailing by as many as six points early.

The Panthers drilled five triples by intermission, which helped immensely for a squad guilty of nine turnovers. Franklin’s woeful second stanza included five turnovers; for the half they made only 5 of 18 field-goal attempts (.278) compared to 8 of 13 (.615) for Jennings County.

Franklin is back in action Tuesday night against county rival Greenwood in the 6 p.m. first game of a Class 4A sectional at Center Grove.

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