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BASKETBALL: Bearcats rock Franklin, roll into post-season

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Anderson recovers to post sixth-straight win

By John Herndon

Anderson County will know very soon whether or not it will continue to play boys' basketball for at least another week.

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The Bearcats are considered underdogs in their first-round game of the 30th District Tournament against Collins, a slight favorite to take the Eighth Region crown, scheduled for Tuesday night.

While the Bearcats' tournament life is certainly in question, there were no inquiries about the Bearcats' playing their best basketball of the 2013-14 season at the right time.

The Bearcats whipped long-time rival Franklin County, 67-56, before a near-capacity crowd in the Anderson gym Friday night. The bragging rights were immense, but paled in comparison to the statement the Bearcats were making with the decisive win and their six-game winning streak heading into the district tournament.

The Bearcats overcame a 10-point deficit then made the necessary plays, and a few more, to post what might have been their most impressive win of the season. It was undoubtedly the Bearcats' best performance since Jan. 1.

“My biggest concern all year, we have been saying to the kids, 'Are you smart enough to win the big game,'” Anderson coach Glen Drury said.

The Bearcats used mental and physical toughness to improve to 13-8 and drop Franklin to 14-11.

Anderson recovered after Franklin staggered the Bearcats early with an 18-8 lead with 5:20 left in the first half. The Bearcats cut that deficit to three points by halftime, then took the lead for good late in the third quarter.

Fittingly, the Bearcats went ahead when Christian Estes turned an Austin Cummins steal into a layup to make it 39-38 with 3:23 remaining in the third period. Estes scored 25 points on his Senior Night while Cummins added 24.

“It was great,” Estes said of his memorable final home game. “I am glad I have a great team that surrounds me.”

Both of Anderson's guards riddled the Flyers, who were already saddled with foul trouble, driving into the lane for baskets or getting to the foul line.

“We were able to score on the dribble,” Drury noted.

It helped that Franklin guard Rylan Rowe and forward Lorenzo McCaskell, two of the best of an athletically-gifted team, both picked up three fouls in the first half. “That was huge,” Drury said. “Part of our game plan was to try to get them in foul trouble.”

With emotions running high, the officials made sure things did not get out of hand. “They did a great job of controlling the game,” Drury said. “Give them a lot of credit. When we had the captain's meeting (at mid-court before the game), they told us, 'This is the last game of the season and they didn't want anyone to have to sit out a post-season game. We are going to warn you several times, but if we have to, we will do it.'”

Drury was referring to calling technical fouls or ejecting players. While emotions did not send anyone to the showers early, Franklin's Chris Roberts was tagged with a technical foul at the 2:08 mark of the first quarter.

Franklin was called for 19 fouls while Anderson was whistled for 18.

Roberts, however, was slowed not by foul trouble, but by an Anderson defense that matched the 6-foot-2, 240-pound all-state football player. While Drury had feared Roberts' ability to overpower the Bearcats inside, he scored just four points. Roberts did grab 12 rebounds, leading the Flyers to a 37-34 board advantage, according to Anderson statistics.

“I thought Darius Harvey's defense on Roberts was a big difference,” Drury said. “Roberts was still causing us problems when we didn't have the right match-up on him, but I thought Darius locked him up.

“I want to give a shout out to Trevor Peveley for guarding Roberts for the minute-and-a-half he was in there. I thought he helped us sustain things to get to halftime.”

Harvey, a senior who got a rare start on Senior Night, finished with 10 rebounds, tying Estes for the team high.

Franklin had run off 11 straight points to go up 18-8 in the second quarter but Anderson chipped away. “Early in the season, if we had gotten down 18-8, we would have gotten beat by 25,” Drury said.

Instead, the Bearcats rallied and sealed the win with clutch play. Cummins hit 3-of-6 three-point attempts and was 9-for-11 at the free throw line.

“We weren't ourselves early,” Estes said, “but we knew we had to keep playing and keep running our offense.”

“I am very proud of the kids,” Drury said. “Our defense couldn't have been any worse than it was earlier in the year, but they have come back. We have been on the mat several times, but they kept getting up.

“We are playing five-as-one. That is what they are supposed to be doing going into the post-season. I am very proud of them. They have come farther than most teams have come.”