Franklin looked pretty good at the start, but it was the Jennings County boys basketball team that closed the deal Friday night.
The Grizzly Cubs roared out to a 13-4 lead against the host Panthers and managed a 33-23 lead at intermission.
With Franklin’s trademark tough defense, it looked Jennings County was in trouble.
However, a second-half surge led the Panthers to a 63-57 win.
“We played very unselfish basketball at the start and were very aggressive,” Franklin coach Jerry Bomholt said. “From that point forward, we started getting careless and start committing turnovers.
“We made some poor decisions in the second half and that hurt us. They capitalized on our turnovers. We just didn’t come out with a lot of intensity down the stretch. If we play like we did in that second half, we will give ourselves no chance of making it through sectionals next week.”
It was the opposite story for host Jennings County, which seemed to struggle early coming off the emotions of a senior night celebration.
Senior Brad Hunt scored 17 of his game high 25 points in the second half as the Panthers came roaring back to take over the game.
“We had to change our defensive strategy to get them off balance,” said Jennings County coach
Joe Hartwell. “Then, they started missing their next few shots and it helped us get things going on offense.”
It was Franklin that came out hot out of the starting gate as it forced the Panthers (13-9) into five turnovers early. However, the Panthers did have a run of their own, 11-2, to tie the game at 15-15 after a quarter of play.
Richard McNamee’s three-point play and an Adrian Kirchner 3-point basket got Jennings County even early.
The Kirchner basketball was one of the game’s highlights. The senior had missed the last three games due to health reasons and it was obvious that the Panthers welcomed back their captain.
Hunt said Jennings County responded after the slow start with better defense.
“I think we were just questioning our zone defense at the start,” Hunt said. “Once we made the right adjustments, things worked out for us and it helped us with easier baskets on offense.”
Franklin got momentum back on its side to start the second quarter as it forced Jennings County into several turnovers and got off to a 15-4 run. Franklin closed out the first half with back-to-back 3 points baskets from Branden Hardesty to make it 33-23 at halftime.
Jennings County came out of halftime playing very aggressive, forcing Franklin into several turnovers to build a 16-4 run, highlighted by a couple of 3-point baskets by Ethan Jarvis to take their first lead of the game at 39-37. Leading 45-41 after three quarters, the Panthers turned to Hunt in the fourth quarter as he scored the team’s first 12 points in the final quarter. The Panthers also got contributions from Tyler Vogel and Hunter Euler in the closing minutes to build a double digit lead so the Grizzly Cubs had no chance of a comeback.
Vogel finished with nine points for the Panthers and Euler added eight points.
Senior Nick King led the Grizzly Cubs with 17 points. Fellow senior Tyler Thomas added 11 points.
“We spread the floor and moved the ball around very well in the second half,” Hartwell said. “Hunter and Johnny (Scruggs) found Brad at the right times in the post to get the easy baskets because they had a hard time guarding Brad one-on-one.”