TROY – The Franklin-Monroe boys basketball team shut down Cedarville in the second half with strong defense and got a strong offensive performance from Connor Crist with 18 points to lead the Jets to a second round win 54-38 in the Division IV sectional tournament at Troy.
Jackson Crist started the game with a bang from the left corner to open up a 3-0 lead, but Cedarville went on a 9-point run before Ethan Conley’s second chance bucket slowed down the Indians to make it 9-5.
Connor Christ was battling inside and would go to the free throw line six times in the first quarter making 5 of them and a short corner jumper from Jordan Rhoades pulled FM within a bucket 13-11, but Trent Coning scored 7 in the period including one at the buzzer to put Cedarville up 15-11.
Franklin-Monroe turned the ball over five times in the opening quarter – many that led to Cedarville’s early run – but that didn’t faze Franklin-Monroe coach Troy Myers.
“The make-up of this year’s team is vastly different than the one who played last year, virtually four of the six guys on the team never played in a tournament game. We have a freshman point guard and our big man never played in this game, so it was just a lot of nerves to start the game and it was visible, but I had a feeling in my heart that’s what it was,” Myers said.
It was raining 3’s for Cedarville in the second period as they hit three of them, but the Jets hung tough as both teams scored 11 points with Cedarville leading 26-22 at the half.
Franklin-Monroe took the lead in the third quarter on a runner in the lane from sophomore Jackson Crist to go up 29-28 at the 3-minute mark.
The Jets exploded for 16 points in the third quarter with Conley scoring 7 points, Jackson Crist 5 and Connor Crist 4 to extend their lead to 38-33 at the end of the third quarter.
“The zone switches in the second half really calmed us down and allowed us to get stops,” Myers stated. “In the first half they (Cedarville) was playing on the right side of the floor and we couldn’t keep them from a right drive. In the second half our defense forced them to the left side with our zone and we broke their rhythm on offense.”
In the final stanza the Jets took control of the tempo and the game extending their lead to 44-33 at the 4-minute mark.
With that lead they were able to spread the floor and get some easy layups including a two-handed jam off the baseline by Conley that delighted the Jet fans.
Cedarville sent FM to line nine times down the stretch where the Jets made 8 of them. In total they shot 15-for-19 for the game to help them pull away for a 54-38 win to advance to the sectional title game.
“This game kind of mirrors our story and season thus far,” Myer’s said after the game. “We knew someone was going to have to step up tonight, someone other than Ethan to help us win this game and tonight that was Connor Crist.”
Connor led all scorers with 18 points including going 10-for-12 from the free throw line not to mention double digit rebounds for a big double-double.
Conley had 15 points, Jackson Crist 10, Jordan Rhoades 8 and Ky Cool 3 for the Jets.
“Connor Crist early in the year wasn’t very effective for us. He had to figure out what the varsity game really is, obviously down the stretch of our last 6-8 games he’s been playing really well and that continued tonight,” Myers praised.
It’s been a few years since Franklin-Monroe has advanced to a sectional final. It will be the first time for the seniors to experience it.
“I told our team not only are you creating memories for each other, but creating special memories for five seniors who won’t be here next year. They will never forget times like this, playing with your teammates and the longer you go the bigger the memories will get,” Myers stated.
“Our fans were big for us tonight considering it was an early game at 6 o’clock on a week night, but they were here in full force and they were awesome. We are so thankful for all the backing they give us. This team and season has been somewhat up and down, but we know our fans will stick with us and we truly appreciate it,” Myers concluded.
The Jets will meet up with the Newton Indians to guarantee one Cross County Conference team will win a sectional title as Newton upset No. 1 seed Legacy Christian. That game will be at 7 p.m. on Friday at Troy High School.
Score by quarters
Cedarville – Moning 0-4-1/1 – 9, Tapwater -1-0-0/0 – 2, McKinnin 0-1-0/0 – 2, Cross 3-2-1/2 – 14, Pollock 1-1-0/0 – 5, Pahl 0-3-0/0 – 6. Totals 4-12-2/3 – 38.
Franklin Monroe – Cool 1-0-0/1 – 3, Rhoades 0-3-2/2 – 8, C.Crist 0-4-10/12 – 18, J. Crist 2-2-0/0 – 10, Conley 2-3-3/4 – 15. Totals 5-19-15/19 – 54.
3-pointers – Cedarville 4 (Cross 3, Pollock 1), Franklin-Monroe 5 (Conley 2, J. Crist 2, Cool 1).
Records: Cedarville (13-11), Franklin-Monroe (14-9).