Senior staff writer
Two midday semifinal thrillers Saturday resulted in an anticlimactic title game that night between Franklin and host Center Grove in the 98th annual Johnson County boys basketball tourney.
Franklin upended Greenwood in a 52-50 nail-biter, which was topped in excitement by Indian Creek’s near upset of Center Grove before the Trojans prevailed 67-59 in overtime in weather-postponed games from Friday.
Indian Creek tied Center Grove at 50 in regulation on a free throw but missed the go-ahead attempt. The Trojans scored 17 points in overtime for the win.
“Indian Creek played a little harder and when you do that, any team can beat anybody,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “No matter who we play, it’s never easy (because) we have a target on our back.”
Center Grove bashed Franklin with a 17-2 start and a 19-4 first-quarter lead, hitting 9-of-11 field goal tries. The Trojans led 37-14 at halftime, enjoyed 26-point leads four times and prevailed 68-51.
The Trojans’ balanced attack featured four players in double figures: 6-9 junior Trayce Jackson-Davis, 16 points; seniors Nate McLain 15 and Joey Klaasen 14; and junior Ben Nicoson 10.
“After the first game, coach really talked to us about coming out strong and more intense,” McLain said. “You could feel the energy in the locker room before we came out. We played really good on the defensive end and that translated to the offensive end.”
“I thought that was our best half of defense we’ve played,” Hahn observed. “We talked a lot about pride (after semifinal); you have to have pride on the defensive end. You’re never going to win a championship or anything worthwhile if you don’t play defense. It starts with Trayce and then the other guys who have multiple years of experience. They executed the game plan (against Franklin) and when we do that, we’re pretty good defensively.”
The Trojans, 11-2 and 2-1 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference) meets MIC foe Ben Davis in Vandermeer Gymnasium Friday and visits Roncalli Saturday.
Hahn likes what he has seen with a team that is 10 players deep.
“I feel pretty good every time we step onto the floor because we have a bunch of guys who are buying into what we are telling them,” Hahn said while players celebrated their county title. “We’re where we need to be. We have lost a couple of close games which keeps us re-focused. At the same time, we are taking care of business, but the road is only going to get tougher.”
Five of the Trojans’ next nine opponents are ranked among the state’s top 20 in the coaches’ poll.
Marion County tourney
Roncalli reached the semifinals of the Marion County tourney for the second straight season.
The Rebels (8-4) fell to No. 5 Ben Davis 59-42 Saturday at Southport. Jack Hegwood scored 10 points and Bryson Meek had five rebounds.
Roncalli won its tourney opener Jan. 9 by defeating North Central 67-57 and downing Beech Grove the next night in a 51-47 double overtime thriller at “The Woodshed.”
The Rebels outscored Beech Grove 11-7 in the second overtime on a fadeaway and putback by Hegwood, who scored 16 of his 18 points after halftime.
Beech Grove rallied Jomar Seals’ shot with one minute left in regulation and two free throws with 15.9 seconds left in the first overtime. Kenny Washington led the Hornets with 14 points; Seals scored nine points and snared seven rebounds.