GREENWOOD — Franklin tipped, deflected and corralled its way to a sectional quarterfinal victory Tuesday.
With 11 steals on 18 New Palestine turnovers, Franklin held off the Dragons 47-44 to advance to the Class 4A Sectional 9 semifinals vs. Greenwood.
A pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers by senior Keegan Lytle and another from junior Ryan Curry kept New Palestine (10-11) in the sectional opener until the final minute. Ultimately, though, Franklin’s zone defense was the difference.
“I know it’s a cliché to say that younger kids can’t duplicate (an opponent) in practice,” said NP coach Adam Barton, who faced Jerry Bomholt’s Franklin club for the second time in three weeks. “Well, Franklin’s 1-2-2 (defense) … our kids have been standing in a 1-2-2 for a week and a half. That guy has coached it for 700 games and he has long, 6-foot-3 athletes in it.
“It took us a while to figure out some options, because what I came up with offensively didn’t quite look the same against their defense as it did against our JV.”
Franklin 6-6 guard Nick King picked off two passes in the opening minute as Bomholt, in his 33rd year overall, seemed determined to keep the basketball out of the post and away from New Palestine 7-foot center Seth Cox.
The strategy worked, as the Dragons’ pass attempts toward the basket were routinely disrupted. Franklin led 17-11 late in the second quarter, but Curry drained a 3-pointer and was fouled in the process with 42.2 seconds remaining. The four-point play made it a 17-15 game at the break.
The Grizzly Cubs (15-6) began to creep away again, but at the buzzer to end the third quarter, Lytle hit a 3-pointer to close Franklin’s advantage to 30-29. The reserve guard nailed two more treys in the final quarter, the last of which gave New Palestine a 39-38 advantage with 2:10 left. Following a Curry 3-pointer, the contest was tied 42-42 at the 1:27 mark.
Despite the turnover issues, New Palestine was in position to avenge its 64-53, Feb. 13 regular season loss to the Grizzly Cubs.
“We just tried to get Samson (Haynes) and Duke (Blackwell) to attack more with the dribble,” Barton said of his guard tandem and the team’s second-half game plan. “In the first half, we were standing at 25 feet, and just as a result of the reversal, we were playing 4-on-5.
“But they did a better job in the second half of attacking that corner of that zone on defense.”
Franklin’s Christian Dickmann (14 points), a 6-3 guard, was fouled with 33.9 to go and the senior made both attempts for a 44-42 lead. At the other end, New Palestine also earned a trip to the free throw line. With a chance to tie, the Dragons missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to essentially seal their fate.
Tyler Thomas (16 points) made 3-of-4 free throw attempts in the final 13.5 seconds sandwiched around a Curry layup for the final count. Haynes missed a long desperation 3-point attempt as time expired.
The Dragons went 6-of-21 from long range, while Franklin (0-of-5) was content to take the ball to the hoop. The Grizzly Cubs made 17-of-32 2-point field goal tries. They’ll face Greenwood (8-12) Friday at 6 p.m.
Lytle, one of four seniors along with Cox (eight rebounds), Haynes (seven rebounds, four assists) and Connor Roach (eight points, five rebounds), went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc for nine points.
“I’m pretty proud of him, because if my math’s right, he hit nine of his last 15 3s,” Barton said of Lytle, the Dragons’ only non-starting senior. “That was something we struggled with. Our team’s stats probably show us shooting 27, 28 percent. So we needed a player like that.”
Barton explained that Lytle went through a rough practice stretch in January and didn’t play in several consecutive varsity games. Yet, he kept working.
“He didn’t touch the court,” the coach noted. “That’s your dream player — a kid that hangs with it and finds his niche and finds his role. He got a start on Senior Night and hit a couple early, and he’s just been sharp ever since.
“We joked that he would be the difference-maker tonight, and he almost was. He put us in a good spot.”
Curry led the Dragons with 16 points. NP’s other returning starter, junior Brandon Jonas, had four points.
With Curry and Jonas in the 2014-15 mix, New Palestine has enough to build around, Barton belives.
“I talked to the sophomores and juniors about building strength,” he said. “We were very shallow depth-wise because we just don’t have a lot of strong kids right now.
“We’ve got a lot of lanky, 6-2 kids. But, that group with Josh Penley, Brandon Collins, Reid Clark … those guys were the same build their sophomore year and they worked in the weight room and they got stronger.”
The Dragons won back-to-back sectional titles in 2011 and 2012, due in large part to the aforementioned trio.
Center Grove (9-12) beat Whiteland 82-74 in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal and will face Franklin Central (11-10) in the second semifinal Friday.
4A SECTIONAL 13 AT CENTER GROVE
Franklin 47, New Palestine 44
FR — Bertsch 1-2 0-0 2, Platfoot 1-6 0-0 2, Dickmann 3-6 8-12 14, Hardesty 0-2 1-2 1, Phair 2-4 0-0 4, Hartkorn 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 6-10 4-6 16, King 4-7 0-0 8. Totals — 17-37 13-20 47.
NP — Lytle 3-5 0-0 9, Blackwell 0-0 0-0 0, Jonas 2-4 0-0 4, Haynes 1-2 1-5 3, Curry 5-16 3-3 16, Riley 0-0 0-0 0, Roach 4-8 0-1 8, Cox 2-6 0-0 4. Totals — 17-41 4-9 44.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
FR (15-6) 10 7 13 17 — 47
NP (10-11) 8 7 14 15 — 44
Three-pt. field goals: FR 0-5 (Bertsch 0-1, Platfoot 0-1, Hardesty 0-2, King 0-1). NP 6-21 (Lytle 3-5, Haynes 0-1, Curry 3-14, Roach 0-1).
Rebounds: FR 18 (Platfoot 3, Dickmann 1, Hardesty 1, Hartkorn 1, Thomas 6, King 2), NP 29 (Lytle 1, Blackwell 2, Jonas 2, Haynes 7, Curry 3, Riley 1, Roach 5, Cox 8). Assists: FR 4 (Platfoot 1, Dickmann 1, Thomas 1, King 1), NP 5 (Haynes 4, Roach 1). Steals: FR 11 (Bertsch 1, Platfoot 1, Dickmann 2, Hardesty 2, Hartkorn 1, Thomas 1, King 3), NP 3 (Haynes 1, Curry 2, Roach 1). Blocks: FR 1 (Thomas 1), NP 1 (Roach 1). Total fouls: FR 15, NP 18. Fouled out: Roach (NP). Turnovers: FR 7, NP 18.