There were 27 instances in which Center Grove and Franklin Central were separated by two points or less Friday night.
For the Trojans, the last one proved painful.
Senior forward Lucas Huffman swished the second of two free throw tries with 1.6 seconds remaining as the Flashes eked out a 54-53 semifinal victory at the Class 4A sectional at Center Grove.
Franklin Central last season won the sectional title with a 48-47 win against the Trojans in the title game.
“It was a great game. You want to give credit to their whole team. If you were here and you’re a Trojans fan you’re proud of your team,” Center Grove coach Cliff Hawkins said.
“Franklin Central got enough done tonight to march on, and we fell one play short.”
The frenzied final possessions saw the Flashes pull ahead 51-50 on a D.J. Heinrich 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Center Grove junior guard Anderson McCoy missed two free throws with 60 ticks left, which led to Heinrich striking again, this time on a layup at 46.8 seconds.
Trojans’ guard Tyler Bryant misfired on a trey attempt on the ensuing possession, but the Flashes turned the ball over to give Center Grove new life.
This time it was junior Michael Benkert having the presence of mind to dribble the ball back behind the 3-point stripe and let go from the baseline.
It bounced around once, twice and finally fell through the hoop with 9.2 seconds to go to tie it at 53-all.
The Flashes hurried the ball down court, with Huffman taking the ball strong to the basket and drawing what proved to be the game-deciding foul.
After a timeout, the Trojans, having to go the entire distance of the court, inbounded to Bryant. His 55-foot heave at the horn sailed over the backboard, and the Flashes and their fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Bryant drilled five treys en route to a game-high 25 points. Benkert with 13 was Center Grove’s other double-digit performer, though junior point guard Joey Lenkey contributed six points and a game-best seven rebounds.
“I thought Tyler Bryant had a great tournament and was very locked in,” Hawkins said. “He certainly played a great game tonight.”
Sophomore sixth man Marcus Burk made four 3’s of his own to lead the Flashes with 12 points with Huffman adding 11.
“I really thought Burk was the difference in the game tonight. He hit some tough shots,” Hawkins said.
Neither team fared well from the field, with Franklin Central making 20 of 45 field-goal attempts (.444) compared to Center Grove’s 14 of 34 (.412).
A total of 23 3-pointers were launched in the first half alone, the last being Carson Lee’s baseline triple with 2.6 seconds left in the second quarter.
This gave Center Grove a 31-27 halftime lead despite the Trojans cashing in on only 7 of 19 field-goal attempts.
Bryant’s two quick treys allowed Center Grove to open the game with a 9-1 advantage. The Flashes pulled even thanks to an 8-0 scoring burst, and the teams remained close for the rest of the half.
Franklin Central led 17-16 after a Jimmy Weinke 3-pointer at 6:52 of the second. The Trojans responded with their own 8-0 run — including rebound buckets by Bryant and Benkert — to lead 22-17.
The Flashes clawed back to go ahead 27-25 on Jalen Bell’s 3-pointer, but a Bryant trey followed by Lee’s to make it a four-point spread at intermission.