The Franklin County Lions will face the Hart County Bulldogs Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Emmanuel College in the Region 8AAA basketball tournament semifinals.
A year ago, the Franklin County Lions were upset in the quarterfinals of the Region 8AAA tournament.
The loss appeared to prevent the team from making the state tournament, until the team was chosen for the state’s one wild-card spot.
The Lions used that second chance to make a run to the state’s Elite Eight.
There was no need for a wild card berth to get the Lions into the state basketball tournament this year.
“Thank God,” Franklin Coach Jason Shaver said Tuesday after his Lions defeated Morgan County 65-49 in the Lions Den.
With the victory, the Lions advance to a region semifinal matchup against Hart County today at 5:30 p.m. at the Shaw Athletic Center at Emmanuel College.
The winner of that game will advance to the 8AAA championship game Saturday at 8:30 p.m., also at Emmanuel. The loser will play in the consolation game Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday’s game with Morgan County went back-and-forth until a sustained run by the Lions put the game away.
Franklin got out to an early 12-4 lead, but Morgan County rallied to take a 26-19 lead with 3:16 left before halftime.
The Lions dominated from there.
In the remainder of the second quarter and third quarter, Franklin outscored Morgan 34-9 to take a 53-35 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Lions used a strong defensive effort to produce fast-break points during the run.
Shaver commended the defensive play of senior Carter Alexander and Titlan Wells.
Alexander had several blocks during the game, including two different instances of back-to-back blocks, where he blocked a shot and then immediately blocked a shot off the rebound.
“Defensively, Carter Alexander was a beast,” Shaver said. “He was really, really, really good.”
Wells added several steals that led to break-away layups for either him or his teammates.
Offensively, seniors Titus Brown and Micah Roebuck led Franklin with 17 points apiece.
Roebuck hit three three-pointers in the game, while Brown drove to the basket for points and converted seven of seven free throws.
Wells had eight points, Alexander seven, David Witcher five, Keylan Rutledge four, Qua Jones three and Avery McGarity and Canaan Mayfield two apiece.
Franklin’s matchup today with Hart County will be the third meeting between the rivals this season. The Lions won both, giving the Bulldogs two of their three losses this season.
“We’ll have to do the little things,” Shaver said, including rebounding and taking charges.
The winner of the semifinal game will not only advance to the region championship game but also wrap up one of the top two seeds from the region in the state tournament. That would mean a home game in the state tournament in at least the first round.