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Franklin's 'fire' burns Center Grove for county title

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During his 32 years as a boys varsity basketball head coach, Franklin’s Jerry Bomholt has seen many different types of teams.

None has been     quite like the Grizzly Cubs.

And for Bomholt, in his first season at Franklin, that’s a good thing.

On Saturday, the Cubs defeated Center Grove 46-42 to claim the Johnson County Tournament title, using a swarming defense that’s become the team’s trademark.

And while Bomholt knows the Cubs still have more work to do, he said what’s been most enjoyable is how they play defense and how well they play together.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team — as good of teams as I’ve had — I’ve never had a team that plays as unselfishly as this group does,” Bomholt said.

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With several different leading scorers this season, Bomholt said the players don’t care who scores one game or the next.

“All they want to do is win,” he said.

And after an 0-2 start, all the Cubs do is win.

Franklin (9-2), which got a game-high 18 points from junior Nicholas King and 13 from senior Keenan Wood, is in on a nine-game winning streak. It opened the season Nov. 21 with a 62-53 loss to Center Grove, followed by a 65-56 defeat against Mid-State Conference rival Decatur Central.

The Cubs haven’t lost since.

“After the first two games (of the season), we knew that we were right there in each of those games,” Wood said. “We feel like we could’ve won both of them. We feel like we could be 11-0 right now.

“So losing those two games kind of lit a fire under us.”

With Saturday’s win, the Cubs earned their third county title, and first since 2010, since the tourney was revived in the 2004-05 season. The title game featured five ties and four lead changes. The largest lead was just five points by Franklin.

With the scored knotted 42-42 with 1:26 remaining, Wood hit a clutch pull-up jumper. The Cubs then forced three crucial turnovers and made two free throws to secure the victory.

As has been the case all season, Franklin’s defense was the key. It forced 11 second-half turnovers and limited the Trojans to 20 points in the half.

For the game, Franklin limited Center Grove to 4-for-12 shooting from two-point range.

“We preached the whole second half, 16 minutes of defense,” Wood said. “That’s what we needed.”

King said Bomholt didn’t have to say much to get the Cubs to crank up their defense.

“He didn’t really say anything because he knows he has trust in us,” King said.

Center Grove’s defense was pretty efficient, too in forcing 16 Franklin turnovers.

“When you have a four-point game in the 40s, it wasn’t like our defense was too shabby, either,” Center Grove coach Cliff Hawkins said.

But while the Trojans made 8 of 19 3-pointers and all 10 of their free throws, Hawkins lamented several missed shots around the basket in the third quarter.

“I want to give credit to Franklin for their effort ,” Hawkins said. “I thought they played a tremendous game. But I also want to give credit to our players, because I thought they played very hard-nosed.

“There were so many things we did well.”

Junior Tyler Bryant led the Trojans with 13 points. Sophomore Michael Benkert added 10.

Edinburgh (8-2) defeated Whiteland (5-7) 62-55 for third place, and Greenwood (1-9) earned its first victory of the season with a 66-53 win over Indian Creek (8-4) for fifth place.

Center Grove plays at Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference opponent Ben Davis at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Franklin travels to Mid-State Conference foe Whiteland at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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