PITSBURG – Franklin Monroe overcome an 8-point halftime deficit on Friday to defeat rival Arcanum in a Cross County Conference boys basketball game.
“Our guys were so tough down the stretch,” Franklin Monroe coach Troy Myers said. “Down 8 at half, down 8 in the third and just continued to throw punches. We just said before the game, ‘Run to the fight. Run to the fight. And if you’re going to go to the fight, throw your punches.’ And I really thought they did a fantastic job in the second half.”
Both teams threw metaphorical punches in the first quarter, but each time their opponent had an answer, leaving Franklin Monroe clinging to a 21-19 lead at the end of the period.
Carter Gray was big for Arcanum in the opening quarter as he made four 3-pointers. Wade Meeks also had a nice quarter, scoring 5 points in his first game action of the season.
Meeks, who was second on the team in scoring last year with 9.4 points a game, missed the beginning of the season with an ACL injury, as did fellow Arcanum junior Isaiah Hootman. Both players received standing ovations from the Trojan faithful when they took the court for the first time this season.
“I told both of them I was proud of them,” Arcanum coach Marcus Bixler said. “It’s a long, long road back. And they busted their butts. They’re in running while we’re practicing. They don’t miss a film session. They go down, (and) they get their rehab done. It’s just a lot. It’s a lot. And I’m proud to have them back on the floor. I’m excited to see them back. I know the guys were excited to see them back. It was their first full week of practice, and it made for a really good week of practice just having those guys back.”
Gray continued with the hot hand in the second quarter, draining two more 3-pointers to give him six total in the first half. His strong outside shooting opened up the inside with Grant Delk as the beneficiary. Delk scored 12 points in the first half as the two Trojan sophomores combined for 30 points in the first two quarters and helped Arcanum build a 37-29 halftime lead.
“They had a great first half,” Bixler said. “When they continue to work it becomes a hard decision on what do you do: Are you going to try to double down or pinch down or are you going to try to stay out? As they continue to mature and get better at it, it’s going to be a real, real tough guard. And I thought they both offensively were really good in the first half. I thought Grant, he had one charge, I think, and maybe another one in the second half. So I thought he did a great job defensively and on the glass as well.”
Arcanum seemingly had all the momentum entering halftime, but Franklin Monroe kept battling. The Jets outscored the Trojans 15-8 in the third quarter to reduce their deficit to a single point, 45-44.
Ethan Conley, who led Franklin Monroe with 15 points in the first half, was held scoreless in the third quarter, but his presence helped open up opportunities for his teammates.
“Ethan didn’t even score in the third, but neither did Carter Gray,” Myers said. “And so I felt like we were getting contributions from a lot of other guys, which made us more dynamic. Then late in the game we made Ethan a screener. They were face-guarding him, trying to take him out so we made him a screener, got Zach Cable involved on a ball screen, and I thought it really worked out for us and opened up the floor.”
Arcanum was able to hold off Franklin Monroe for much of the fourth quarter. FM’s Parker Hesler made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 47-47, but Arcanum regained the lead moments later with a Wills Troutwine triple.
Midway through the quarter Kyle Ressler scored to reduce the deficit to a single point once more. Then with less than three minutes remaining the Jets took their first lead since the second quarter with two free throws from Conley, his lone points of the second half. From there the Jets led the rest of the night and hung on for a 6-point victory.
“I knew it was going to be like this,” Myers said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for us, and in a respect I’m really glad it happened because I think it allows our guys to play in real situations that are tight, and it gives us kind of a tournament atmosphere. When you need to make plays because you’re game’s on the line, you make plays, and I thought we did.”
Conley led Franklin Monroe with 17 points on Friday. Also for the Jets, Hesler scored 14 points, Bryce Filbrun scored 11, Ressler scored 8, Jordan Rhoades scored 4, Cable scored 2, and Cole McGlinch scored 2.
Gray led Arcanum with a game-high 20 points. Also for the Trojans, Delk scored 15 points, Meeks scored 5, Zach Smith scored 4, Evan Atchley scored 3, Troutwine scored 3, and Lane Byrne scored 2.
“All in all it was a good game,” Bixler said. “It was a fun game to be part of. I know the guys, they worked their tails off tonight, and it was just enjoyable.”
Franklin Monroe improved to 11-5 overall and 7-1 in the CCC with Friday’s win while Arcanum fell to 5-10 overall and 1-7 in the conference.
Arcanum will return to action on Saturday at Newton while Franklin Monroe is off until Feb. 2 when it travels to Twin Valley South.