Girls basketball looks to best Franklin in sectional semifinal


S. Findley

Rachel Wirts grabs a defensive rebound in the Trojans final regular season game against Lawrence North.

Sam Findley, Sports Editor

The matchup is set between arguably the two best teams in the sectional: No. 2 Franklin and Center Grove. Franklin advanced to play Center Grove Friday at 6:00 p.m. at Franklin Central following a 73-36 first-round domination of Shelbyville. The two squads have met twice already this season and the Grizzly Cubs have bested the Trojans in both games by three points.

This isn’t a county championship or another regular-season game; this is the state tournament and sophomore Aubrie Booker knows just how important this game is.

“The ultimate goal is to excel in the playoffs and win state. But the importance of this game in particular is to prove that we are capable of winning sectionals and that we are good enough to finally best Franklin,” Booker said.

Center Grove’s defense was able to hold Franklin to sub-par offensive games in both meetings. Head coach Kevin Stuckmeyer has relied heavily on his defense this year and during his tenure as a whole and knows it will be the factor in the rematch.

“I think any game that we play, it’s important to be prepared for what the other team is going to bring and understand the philosophy of confidence. I think [defense] can always keep you in games. We always pride ourselves on putting ourselves in the best position to win,” Stuckmeyer said. “Obviously, the defensive side makes other teams have to play a different game or at least have to earn everything they get. Obviously, a team with the firepower Franklin has, it becomes that much more important. We just have to be connected to the team to just guard them with all five because any one of their five that’s on the floor can make the basket. We just have to be connected and all play really strong team defense to make it a little bit different game for them and what they’re used to with other teams.”

Seniors Ashlyn Traylor and Kuryn Brunson have led Franklin with 16.1 points and 14.2 points respectively. Both Traylor and Brunson get their shots from inside, where sophomore center Rachel Wirts will try to limit their opportunities inside.

“If they get by our perimeter defenders, which will happen every once in a while, then I think it’s important to have someone with decent size to be able to step up and meet them before the lower lane to either make them take a bad shot or if possible no shot at all,” Wirts said.

Along with Brunson and Traylor, the Grizzly Cubs could get their offense from do it all forward Erica Beuning, sharpshooter Scarlett Kimbrell, three-point sniper and defensive-minded point guard Lauren Klem or bench sparkplug Adlyn Walker. Not letting Franklin’s role players get hot like Shelbyville did when they allowed 20 points from Kimbrell will be a key for CG.

“When we played other teams, our scout report is normally one or two strong players and our best defenders are guarding them,” Booker said. “But every time we play Franklin, everyone knows that when they are in the game and on defense we have to guard everyone with the same mentality and treat everyone on the court as their best players so we can hold them to less than 40 points.”

On the offensive end, Center Grove must have a strong showing against Franklin if they want to escape to the sectional final. Center Grove has a much more diverse offense than last year’s squad, but Stuckemyer could look to Booker, who led the Trojans throughout the playoffs last year but has taken a backseat to newcomers this year.

Another key to the offense has been junior point guard Ella Hobson who has heated up in the weeks leading up to sectionals, most recently recording a 15 point outing against Lawrence North. Junior Savanna Bischoff has been the lead contributor for the Trojans during the regular season with 9.2 points and will likely be a focal point for the Trojans offense also.

The task of defeating Franklin is a daunting one for the Trojans but if they do manage the upset, they will face the winner of Greenwood-Franklin Central.

Greenwood comes into that semi-final as the slight Sargain favorite. The Trojans have defeated the Woodmen two times by comfortable margins – 26 points in the county tournament and 21 points more recently in the last week of the regular season.

Greenwood has developed into a defense-first team under head coach Justin Bennett but also lacks any real deep threats and will likely have to find its offense in swiss army knife senior forward Quinn Kelly. Kelly has averaged 9.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.8 steals. Other than Kelly, the Woodmen have lengthy post Brooklyn Bell, two-way threat point guard Lily Howe and in-your-face guard Emily Metzger.

However, Center Grove lost to Franklin Central 48-45 in a disappointing regular-season opener, but both teams have changed since that opener with the Flashes best player Rya Kincer going out with a season-ending injury shortly after the team’s game with the Trojans.

In the less likely scenario of Franklin Central facing CG in the sectional final, the Trojans will need to watch out for underclassmen Lily Graves who leads the team in scoring, avergining 10.6 points. Forward Carys Wilson has added 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds and guard Emily Mcvey contributed 7.7 points a game so far.

If the Trojans do get past Franklin Community, the team feels confident in their game plan and knowledge of both Greenwood and Franklin Central.

“We feel good about knowing [Greenwood] but they obviously feel the same way. Otherwise, it would just be a sectional championship dogfight if it’s them. Franklin Central we will be prepared for them. We kinda know what they have. We will get our team ready and prepared,” Stuckmeyer said.