PITSBURG – Franklin Monroe, led by the inside scoring of freshman Ethan Conley and the outside marksmanship of senior Bradey Hesler, seized control of a close game in the third quarter, thanks to a 15-4 run, to overcome Troy Christian 63-47 Saturday night.
Conley, working against mostly taller Eagles opponents, connected for a game-high 23 points while Hesler’s accuracy from deep kept Troy Christian’s defense honest and didn’t allow the Eagles to sag so much into the paint.
“Our freshman big (Conley) is learning,” Franklin Monroe boys basketball coach Troy Myers said. “He’s getting better. Wasn’t very good against 6 foot 5 early in the year, but now tonight, he’s proved he’s gotten better. That’s the steps you look for as a coach and as a team. As long as we’re making them every day and every week that’ll be OK. He’s going to the rim. He’s going into them now…Getting himself to the free throw line. That’s progress. That’s what we’re looking for.
“I’ve been waiting for Bradey to play a game like this,” Myers continued. “For him to play confident and really shoot the ball the way he can shoot it. He’s got reps in as the season has gone on … Sometimes it takes a kid some reps and a lot of weeks to get his shot right. I think he’s doing that right now. If he can provide that third threat for us right now or even be a second threat or go to guy early, he makes us really dangerous … I love that kid to death. He’s worked his tail off for four years. It’s exciting to see him succeed and have a night like he did tonight.”
The FM defense also stepped up in the third period. The Jets allowed just eight points in the eight minutes. The Eagles were penetrating, but the Jets were not allowing them to square their shoulders up for good looks at the basket.
“I wanted to pull out … said no, we had to figure out how to guard man to man,” Coach Myers said of the defense. “Don’t want to sit back in zone. We want to play man. We want to get after you. We did enough to keep them out and force tough shots. I didn’t want to bail our kids out. The bottom line is they figured out a way to get it done.”
Franklin Monroe got off to a good start. Hesler connected for two treys inside the first three minutes, and sophomore Kyle Ressler would add one of his own. Conley closed out the Jets scoring, adding an old-fashioned 3-point play to give FM a 16-10 lead at the end of the first period.
Troy Christian went to work in the second quarter. Three times the Eagles closed the deficit to only one point, but they would never lead in this game. The duo of Conley and Hesler accounted for the final four points of the half to give the Jets a 30-25 halftime advantage.
After their third quarter breakout the Jets were in firm control of the game. The Eagles never drew closer than seven points for the remainder of the game.
“I am pleased,” Coach Myers said. “I thought all week that we needed a weekend like this. Maybe not necessarily from a wins standpoint but from a progress standpoint. We have to figure out every day how to be relentless. Early on in our season we weren’t doing that. We were at times, but we weren’t consistently. This weekend was good for us regardless of who we played or where we played them. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could play that way …That’s our standard. That’s how we want to play. Regardless of who we have or how young or old they are that’s how we want to play. I thought we put two back to back nights together for the first time all year. It showed in the scoreboard. Our kids continue to fight … We did enough things right to get out on the positive end.”
Conley led all scorers with 23. Hesler added 18, and Zach Hyre contributed 11 for Franklin Monroe.
With the win the Jets advanced to 5-6 on the season with a 2-3 mark in the Cross County Conference. The loss dropped Troy Christian to 4-9 on the year.
Franklin Monroe won the junior varsity game 53-40.
Troy Christian – 47
Tanner 3, Hartman 5, Hayden 8, Wynne 5, Brown 9, Anderson 8, Dillahunt 5, Schenk 4.
Franklin Monroe – 63
Ressler 5, Peters 4, Conley 23, Brown 2, Hyre 11, B Hesler 18.
3-pointers: TC: 3 (Tanner, Brown, Dillahunt); FM: 5 (B Hesler 4, Ressler).
Free throws: TC: 8-14; FM: 20-23.