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FRANKFORT – Through three months and 27 basketball games, a familiar pattern has stayed with Anderson County's Lady Bearcats.
When Anderson plays well for 32 minutes, the Lady Bearcats are very tough to beat. When there is a lull, things aren't quite as rosy.
Friday, Anderson played well enough to win for 24 minutes. But those other eight minutes were killers as franklin County ended its regular season on a high note with a 45-41 win. Franklin entered this week's district tournament play at 18-11 while Anderson was 19-8 going into Tuesday's 30th District semifinal game with Shelby County/Eminence.
“Had we played as hard the entire game as we did in the last five minutes, we would have been in good shape,” Anderson coach Tony Kays sighed.
Anderson actually led 24-19 after Eriel McKee drove for a layup with 4:46 left in the third quarter. It would be Anderson's last field goal until McKee scored in the lane with eight seconds left in the third frame. In between, Franklin had gone on a 14-1 scoring spree, turning numerous Anderson turnovers into layups. Fittingly, Franklin got its first lead when the Flyers forced a turnover, then Brittany Mello scored on a runout to make it 25-24.
Franklin never trailed again. Raven Timmons led the Flyers with 15 points.
Anderson repeatedly allowed itself to get trapped in the corners near mid-court and Franklin made the Lady Bearcats pay. By the time Anderson finally settled down, Franklin led 33-25, the largest margin either team enjoyed on the night.
While Anderson had looked on its way to spoiling Franklin's Senior Night when the Lady Bearcats led for the first 21 minutes, there were signs that Anderson was not hitting on all cylinders. The Lady Bearcats repeatedly missed easy shots early and mental mistakes gave Franklin three easy points at the end of the first and second quarters.
An foul with 1.5 seconds left in the first quarter led to a Franklin free throw and a missed perimeter jump shot when the Lady Bearcats wanted to kill clock led to a runout with 3.6 seconds before halftime.
“We have had trouble closing out quarters all year,” Kays sighed. “We work on that, but we still have trouble there.”
Still, with the problems in execution the Lady Bearcats had, they showed in the final five minutes why they are still a good pick to successfully defend their Eighth Region championship.
After Megan Gearhart scored on an out-of-bounds play, Franklin seemed in control with a 37-31 lead, but McKee, who led all scorers with 18 points, sparked a bit of a comeback. Anderson got within three on three separate occasions in the final two minutes but could never get over the hump as missed layups – Anderson was unable to convert three in the final 2:30 – were still a problem.
Franklin might have also gotten a couple of officiating breaks down the stretch, including what Anderson felt was a walk with 16 seconds left, incensing Kays.
But 10 minutes after the final horn, Kays noted, “We should have not been in that position anyway. We didn't take care of business early in the game.
“Hopefully, this will be a good experience for us.”