NEW LEBANON – Two teams playing for pride left it all on the court Saturday night.
They represented their respective leagues – the Cross County Conference and the Southwestern Buckeye League – and their schools – Franklin Monroe and Dixie. No league title on the line or district trophy – just two teams battling into the night for the right to walk out of the gym a winner.
Intensity is the first word that describes this game. It was the last game of the season for both teams, and either team could have taken the night off and focused instead on the state tournament next week. But that is not in the DNA of these players. Instead they left skin on the floor, diving for loose balls and banging bodies under the boards fighting for rebounds.
The first quarter set the tone for the night. It was senior night for Dixie, and the Greyhounds put five seniors on the court to start the game.
Dixie marched out to an early lead, but the Jets went on a nice 7-0 run and were up 14-8 at one point. In a theme that would run true the entire night – when one team grew a lead, the other would make a run and catch up. Dixie responded to close that gap, and it was 14-12 at the end of the quarter.
Dixie mixed up its defenses during the night, using either a man to man or a zone. Meanwhile the Jets used a man-to-man defense and would alternately apply full-court pressure to the Greyhounds.
Dixie pulled ahead in the last part of the second quarter. The Greyhounds did a good job of not letting the Jets score in the paint during this run and had a 25-20 halftime lead.
Both offenses went to work in the second half. The Jets more than doubled their entire first half output and made up some ground in third quarter. Dixie still held the upper hand at the end of the quarter, but now it was a one-point game, 42-41.
Both teams were playing defense vigorously, but Dixie was racking up the fouls and was giving up bonus before the midway point of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter and the two overtimes Franklin Monroe was a respectable 14 of 16 from the line – that helped keep the Jets in the game. Dixie was up by two with about 30 seconds left in the final quarter of regulation, but Mason Conley hit a layup to tie the game and send it to overtime – keeping the Jets’ hopes alive.
In the first overtime it looked like Dixie was going to seal the win when Blake Miller hit a layup with less than 20 seconds left. But Ethan Conley knotted the score at 67-all when he scored on a put-back as the clock ran out.
In the last overtime Franklin Monroe got a little sloppy with their ball handling and gave up some easy turnovers.
It was senior night for Dixie, but a sophomore cemented the Dixie win. Dixie was up by a point with under a minute left but was able to pad its lead when sophomore Devon Worley was fouled twice in the waning seconds of the game. He sank two free throws each trip to put the game out of reach of the Jets, 76-71.
“It was a battle for six quarters essentially,” Franklin Monroe boys basketball coach Troy Myers said. “I thought they made maybe one or two plays more than us down the stretch. But we had some unforced turnovers in costly situations, and in clutch situations in a close game like this you just can’t do that. You have to give Dixie credit; they knocked down shots when they had to, free throws when it mattered. It was a tough fought game. I don’t think anything was on hold. We both went at it.”
And both teams will get to go at it again. They meet Saturday in the first round of the state tournament. Dixie and Franklin Monroe will have another battle royale at Northmont. So be prepared for another toe-to-toe fight to the finish.
Scoring for Franklin Monroe: Kyle Ressler 3, Mason Conley 12, Landon Peters 2, Zach Hyre 18, Bradey Hesler 11, Ethan Conley 24.