Senior staff writer
Franklin Central saved its best for the opening game of the boys basketball regional Saturday morning at Seymour.
The Flashes, winners of just five regular-season games and three-peat champions of the Whiteland Sectional, upended No. 6 Bloomington South 52-50 thriller while avenging a 21-point loss to the Panthers in late January.
Beyond a doubt, coach John Rockey’s Flashes (9-16) turned in their best 32 minutes of the season. They dominated early and turned away every challenge by the favored Panthers (21-3).
FC jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first four minutes, trailed only once in the second quarter, and led 29-21 at the half.
The Flashes fell behind 50-49 with 1:18 left. Matt Clements, a 6-2 senior, hit the game-winning 3-pointer from the right corner with 18 seconds remaining.
With 4.9 seconds left, junior Jimmy Weinke controlled the rebound after a missed Panther free throw and was fouled but missed his first free throw, which South rebounded. The Panthers missed a desperation shot at the buzzer that hit the rim, ending their 19-game winning streak.
“It was an exciting game,” said FC leading scorer Matt Anderson said. “We remembered the first time we played them, and they skunked us pretty bad. We knew after the first half that we could play with them. We had to keep playing aggressively and doing the things that we did in the first half to be successful in the second half.”
Each time South tied the game or gained the lead the Flashes responded with shots by Grant Pedigo, Marcus Burk and back-to-back buckets by Anderson for 49-47 lead.
Anderson scored a game-high 19 points, and Burk scored 16 in the first half. Clements, Weinke, Pedigo and Anthony Cerbone combined for 17.
Rockey used 11 players in the first half. The bench contributed six rebounds and three points for the game.
“They scored 86 points on us the first time we played them,” Rockey said. “We defended a lot better and we got some big plays down the stretch. We had been talking a lot about somebody stepping up and boy we had a lot of examples of that. Our kids hung in there and fought to the end.”
In the nightcap the Flashes committed eight turnovers against No. 2 Evansville Reitz’s half-court traps. The Panthers (28-1) led 27-13 after the first quarter and ended FC’s season 83-69.
“When you’re going up against the No. 2 team in the state, you can’t turn the ball over like that,” Rockey said. “To pull off the upset again, we had to play great defense and do an unbelievable job on the boards and that didn’t happen. Our kids still fought to the very end and never gave up.”
Burk scored 10 of his team-high 19 points in the first quarter and grabbed 11 rebounds. Pedigo wound up with 14 points and Clements 12. Cerbone, Landon Alting, Wilson Huber and Austin Kocken came off the bench for a combined 14 points.
The Flashes graduate six seniors – starters Clements and Anderson plus Cerbone, Alting, Spencer Proffer and Julian Nelson.
They expect to return next year with leading scorer Burk and rapidly improving Pedigo, a 6-5 player who can score from the inside or outside, and 6-1 guard Weinke.
“We have some quality talent coming back,” Rockey observed. “We had some guys who hadn’t played much go on the floor (Saturday) and show what they can do. It will be a fun year if we can keep improving and win a few more of those close ones next year.”
In four years under Rockey’s tenure, the Flashes have won three sectional titles and have reached the regional championship game twice.
Three-time sectional champion Lutheran ran into a second-half scoring drought and fell to Jac-Cen-Del 53-36 Saturday in the semifinals of the Class A Martinsville Regional.
Lutheran only trailed 18-17 at the half but could only manage three points against in the third quarter and fell behind 32-20.
Coach Tom Finchum’s squad finished 9-16. The Saints graduate seven seniors – leading rebounder Blake Sobieralski, Jake Kent, Cole Ballard, Seth Hougesen, Cody Moncel, Travis Frist and Dalton Nidey. Junior Tommy Miner, who led the team in scoring, assists and steals, is expected back with No. 2 rebounder Matt Fox.
Miner and Ballard each scored eight points.
The Saints won the Edinburgh Sectional by holding three foes to 39.6 points per game. Offensively, Lutheran was way off its 50.6 scoring average against Jac-Cen-Del (19-9).