Playing four games in nine days can take its toll on a team.
In the case of the Franklin Community boys basketball program, that fourth game turned out to be a sectional final. It had the motivation to compete — a chance to win its first sectional championship since 2006.
Instead, Franklin Central defended its sectional title Saturday night, defeating the Grizzly Cubs 48-36 at Center Grove.
The Cubs finished the season 16-7, going 31-14 and winning back-to-back Johnson County Tournament titles in coach Jerry Bomholt’s first two years with the program.
Now Bomholt wants the program to consistently get back to the sectional final.
“What we have to do is to get to that (sectional) championship game year after year after year so our kids know what that feels like,” Bomholt said.
Franklin last made a sectional final in 2010 after back-to-back appearances in 2005 and 2006.
“We have to get there, and make it a habit of getting there,” Bomholt said. “And once we get there over and over and over again, we understand that feeling, then we’ll hopefully get that championship.”
On Saturday, the Cubs fought to get that championship, overcoming an early 7-0 deficit and Franklin Central’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer before halftime.
And they trailed by just five points with the ball early in the fourth quarter.
“And then, I thought we ran out of gas,” Bomholt said.
After a turnover, two missed free throws and a Franklin Central 3-pointer, the Cubs trailed 34-26 with 5:49 left.
In the last five minutes, Franklin Central hit 10 of 12 free throws, its only free throw attempts in the game, and cruised to the victory.
“When we needed that extra gear to draw on, it just wasn’t there,” Bomholt said. “We played our hearts out. We played extremely, extremely hard. We just didn’t play well enough offensively to win the tournament.”
In the final, Franklin hit 10 of 34 field goals and 15 of 22 free throws.
“We won the first two games (of the sectional) struggling offensively for a half, but then we got it going,” Bomholt said. “Tonight, we never really got our offense geared up. We just missed way, way too many easy shots.”
Franklin Central senior Lucas Huffman scored a game-high 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting as the Flashes hit 10 of 15 2-point field goals in the game.
Franklin Central (13-10) used a 7-0 run to open the game before junior Branden Hardesty converted a three-point play to put the Cubs on the scoreboard.
The Flashes got a long-range, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take a 19-14 lead into halftime.
Senior Tyler Thomas scored a team-high 10 points and grabbed four rebounds.
In addition to Thomas, Bomholt loses the following seniors: Alec Bertsch, Bryce Platfoot, Christian Dickmann and Nick King.
“They worked extremely hard,” Bomholt said. “Like tonight, they gave us every ounce of effort. And a couple of them were struggling with their shot. But they gave us every ounce of effort tonight they had. And that’s all you can ask of them.”