Senior staff writer
“Four-peat! Four-peat! Four-peat! Four-peat!”
The chant from Franklin Central’s student cheering section went up with 45 seconds remaining Saturday in the 4A sectional championship game against Franklin at Martinsville.
The No. 18 Flashes lived up to their rare role as sectional favorite after going into three previous sectionals as the underdog and emerging as champions.
Coached by veteran John Rockey, the deep and quick Flashes dominated Franklin in the second half for the Sectional 19 championship, 62-48. Eight different players scored for the Flashes, led by 6-3 senior Marcus Burk’s 17 points.
The rugged Seymour Regional, which features four of the state’s top 18 teams, is next. Franklin Central (18-6) meets No. 11 Evansville Reitz (21-4) at noon, following No. 1 New Albany (23-1) and No. 7 Bloomington South (21-4) at 10 a.m. The winners meet at 8 p.m.
“This is the best team I’ve taken to Seymour,” Rockey said while the Flashes cut down the nets Saturday inside John R. Wooden Gymnasium.
Explaining the Flashes’ offense, Rockey continued, “We still need to keep thinking defense and rebounding. We’re hard to guard (because) we’ve got some outside shooters, some inside guys who can score and guards who can break you down. That’s been our strength late in the season; we’re hard to guard.”
The Flashes went through Franklin’s full-court press in the second half Saturday. With the game tied at 30, Franklin Central went on a 22-2 run for a 20-point lead with 4:18 left. Rockey’s rompers rolled to their 18th win even with point guard Jimmy Weinke in foul trouble.
Franklin Central relies on the one-two combination of Weinke and leading scorer Burk, one of the state’s most effective backcourt tandems. Burk averaged 25.6 points per game before the tourney; Weinke averages 12.2 points and 4.4 assists.
“We connect with each other on the court,” Burk said. “He’s my best friend, my ‘brother.’ This (four-peat) means a lot. We’ve won sectionals every year we’ve been in high school.”
The eight-deep Flashes feature Burk, Weinke, Antoyne Jackson, Austin Kocken, Grant Pedigo, Mason Hardimon, Jake Cerbone and Wilson Huber.
The Flashes hit 24-of-42 field goals (57.1 percent) while Franklin hit 15-of-37 (40.8 percent). Franklin Central dominated the boards 24-16.
The Flashes reached the final game by thumping Greenwood 82-49, with Pedigo leading the way Friday with 18 points; Franklin ended Center Grove’s season 65-60. The Trojans ousted Mid-State Conference co-champion Whiteland 63-52 earlier, and Greenwood upset host Martinsville 63-60 in overtime.
Center Grove (9-16) will lose senior starters Trevor Harrell and Bryce Brown plus Sam Meier, Drew Conrad and Bryce Williams. Junior Travis Roehling, who scored 21 points against Franklin, sophomores Nate McLain and Joey Klassen and 6-6 freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis are expected to return. Jackson-Davis had 18 points and 10 rebounds against Whiteland.
“Our guys were resilient (against Franklin), said Center Grove coach Zach Hahn. “All you can ask for is a chance to tie it or win it at the end, and we had that chance. I can say honestly that we played our best basketball at the end of the season, and that’s because our seniors didn’t give up. They believed and they pulled our younger players along, tool.”
Greenwood (12-12) snapped a 12-year drought of winless sectional games. Sophomore Eric Monkhaus hit a 3-point shot to push the game into overtime, and senior guard Justin Conley hit two free throws with 5.8 seconds left for the final margin.
Greenwood coach Bruce Hensley completed his 26th season at the Woodmen helm and graduates Conley, Michael Bailey and Garrett Henderson, whom he praised for their leadership. Greenwood expects to return with four sophomores who started in the sectional.