Bulldogs end Franklin County season at Greensburg Sectional
By Tyler Whittamore, Sports Editor
GREENSBURG – The third time was anything but a charm for the Wildcats last Thursday night, February 27, in the first round of Sectional 29 at Greensburg, as the team lost to Batesville, 78-47.
It was the third time in the 2012-13 season that the two teams had faced each other. The Bulldogs won the first two games against Franklin County by only a combined 11 points, giving the Wildcats hope that things would be different the third time around.
That hope was dashed early on in the sectional first round matchup as Batesville took an early lead and rode it all the way to the end.
Franklin County still had a chance as the first quarter came to an end, trailing by six at 14-8, but the Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run to begin the second period and extend the lead.
Batesville continued its offensive onslaught by scoring 26 points in the second quarter on 9-of-17 (53 percent). When the halftime horn blew, the Bulldogs had doubled up the Wildcats, leading 40-20.
Franklin County avoided falling further behind for most of the third quarter. A pair of Wildcat free throws with 3:32 left in the third drew the ‘Cats to within 19 points at 50-31, but over the next six minutes of game time Batesville outscored FC 22-4 to put the game far out of reach.
“If we wanted to win we had to outrebound Batesville and make them take contested threes,” said Franklin County head coach Joe Neuman. “We didn’t outrebound them, and the threes they took were not contested.”
With the Wildcats down 72-35, the last half of the fourth quarter was dedicated to mostly bench and junior-varsity players as the clock and the remainder of Franklin County’s season slipped away.
The loss to Batesville was the 11th straight first round knockout for the Wildcats at sectionals. Franklin County has not won a postseason contest since February, 2002.
Losing in pressure situations had almost become part of the culture with the Wildcats, failing to perform well in big time games.
“We struggle in front of big crowds and at huge events,” Coach Neuman said. “It’s a mental thing.”
“We start to panic,” he added, “and we don’t stay focused on the things we have to do.”
Batesville had 10 players break into the scoring column during Thursday night’s game. The Bulldogs were paced by junior Kassidy Kase. The 5-foot-8 guard came off the bench to score 19 points. Kase missed just one field goal on the evening, making 7-of-8 attempts (88 percent). The junior was a perfect 5-for-5 in the first half.
Kase’s performance and the depth of scoring from Batesville’s bench came as a surprise to Coach Neuman and provided a new challenge for his team.
“It’s beyond tough (when scoring comes from everyone),” the coach said. “When their eighth man is their leading scorer, it’s a big problem.”
“(Kase) is not known as someone who knocks (threes) in consistently,” he added. “After he knocked down the first, he got his confidence rolling.”
Teammate and fellow junior Wesley McKinney had 17 points for Batesville.
Franklin County’s Zach Sizemore led all players in scoring. The senior guard matched his career-best with 23 points, a mark he set against South Dearborn in the Wildcats’ last regular season game.
Sizemore was 8-for-17 (47 percent) from the field and 7-of-10 (70 percent) from the free-throw line.
The senior guard ended his high school career averaging 16 points per game over his final five contests.
“(Sizemore) stuck with the game plan,” Coach Neuman said. “He kept going at them, and he brought it again tonight, as a senior should do.”
“I’m beyond belief proud of him,” he added, “and proud of his efforts.”
Franklin County headed home after the loss with a 5-16 record, while the Bulldogs moved on to the second round to face sectional host Greensburg.
Greensburg defeated South Dearborn in the first round.
Batesville had an early lead in the contest, but the Pirates came surging back before eventually winning 77-65.
Greensburg faced Madison in the championship round and won 69-52. It is the second straight sectional title for the Pirates who currently stand with a 22-1 record. Their only loss this season was at Batesville on January 11. It was the only regular season loss in the last two years for Greensburg.
The Pirates (21-1) will face Evansville Bosse (18-5) on Saturday, March 9, in the first round of the Washington Regional. The winner of that contest will face either Brownstown Central (22-1) or Vincennes Lincoln (17-6).
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