Senior staff writer
How good is Franklin Central’s boys basketball team?
Senior Marcus Burk, the Flashes’ leading scorer, knows.
“We’re a really sound team,” the 6-foot-3-inch shooting guard said. “If you stop one of us, we have four more options that can score. It’s hard to stop all of us.”
Coach John Rockey’s Class 4A No. 13 Flashes stood 9-1 after overwhelming host Southport, No. 1 in preseason polls, 75-55 Friday at historic Southport Fieldhouse. The Cardinals suffered their third straight loss and fell to 5-5 as both teams warmed up for this week’s Marion County tourney.
The tournament opened Tuesday with Roncalli and Southport meeting in an upper-bracket matchup. Park Tudor visited Franklin Central, Beech Grove traveled to Ben Davis, Pike played at Lutheran and Perry Meridian went to Speedway in lower-bracket games. Results were unavailable at press time.
The quarterfinals are tonight at four sites. Southport will host semifinal action at 6 p.m. Friday and the championship game Saturday at 7 p.m.
The duel Friday between Conference Indiana foes resulted in Southport’s worst defeat since Feb. 27, 2013, a 61-36 loss to Ben Davis. Since then the Cardinals are 43-16 under coach Kyle Simpson. Their previous four losses this season were by a combined 10 points.
“We did some good things in the first half, but we need to be able to play a full four quarters,” Simpson said. “We missed shots against their zone, and they came down and hit shots. They didn’t do anything that we hadn’t seen on film.
“They are 9-1 for a reason. They hit shots, and Burk is playing at a high level.”
The Southside showdown featured the one-two punches of Burk and teammate point guard Jimmy Weinke and Southport’s nifty shooting guard Paul Scruggs and 6-10 Joey Brunk, who returned to action after missing four games due to a badly sprained ankle. Brunk was held scoreless in the second and third quarters.
Burk scored a game-high 33 points with 18 points in the Flashes’ third-quarter surge, outscoring Southport 21-9. Burk connected on his first six field goal tries, including four 3-pointers in the third quarter. Weinke scored 18 points, 13 in the first half.
Scruggs scored all of Southport’s 19 points in the second quarter. Brunk wound up with 14 points and five rebounds.
The Flashes are off to their best start under Rockey and best since starting 12-1 in 2008-09 under Mark James. After handing Southport its first conference loss, FC is atop the league with a 3-0 record.
Rockey was confident of his Flashes at halftime Friday.
“If it weren’t for Scruggs and the way he shot the ball, I thought we would have been up by even more,” Rockey said. “We told our kids at halftime that he would probably cool off a bit, but we did make it a point for every player to know where he was.”
The Flashes’ turnaround was fashioned at halftime when the players talked Rockey into implementing a zone defense.
The result was devastating to Southport’s offense as the Cardinals hit only 3-of-12 shots and grabbed a mere three rebounds; meanwhile, the Flashes connected on 8-of-12 and snared 11 rebounds.
“We showed a lot of energy in that third quarter,” Rockey said. “The zone slowed them down, and they became content with shooting the ball from out. We were able to get rebounds and beat them down the floor.”
With the red-hot Burk leading the way, the Flashes rolled to a 52-36 lead with 96 seconds left in the third quarter and later pushed the margin to 62-41 on Weinke’s fourth trey.
Explaining his scoring surge, Burk said, “I was forcing it a little bit in the first half. I relaxed and let the game come to me in the second half.”
The Flashes are more than just Burk and Weinke. Starting forward Grant Pedigo scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and 6-3 junior Jake Cerbone came off the bench for eight points in the second half.
Rockey also praised the defensive efforts of 6-6 senior Antoyne Jackson and 6-5 junior Wilson Huber against Brunk, who was held to five points over three quarters.
The Flashes hit 28-of-53 from the field (52.8 percent), while Southport hit only 35.2 percent, 19-of-54. FC had a 33-26 edge on the boards.
Johnson County tourney
The Johnson County boys tourney continues Thursday at Indian Creek with Franklin facing the Center Grove-Edinburgh winner at 6 p.m. and Whiteland meeting the Greenwood-Indian Creek winner at 7:30 p.m. The championship game is Friday at 7 p.m..