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Friday's big, but next week is coming

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Franklin game is fun, but tourney time more important

By John Herndon

It is the rivalry that has evolved into, well to be brutally honest, something less.

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Ok, Ok. Before you want to check my sanity when I make such a statement about Anderson County and Franklin County, hear me out.

It’s still big, but no longer rates somewhere between Ultimate Smackdown and Armageddon.

To the fans, it doesn’t matter if both teams are “up” – which has been the case more often than not – or both are down to different degrees, as both boys’ programs are this year, the fans turn out when the Bearcats play the Flyers. The kids might play on Friday night, then have a family dinner together on Sunday.

So it’s a game to get ready for with your best trash talk.

The players? Oh yeah. Boys or girls, it is a huge one. They know each other, play pickup games together and against each other. That means the fire burns a bit hotter for the non-regional game that both teams circle on their calendars first.

But the truth is that the rivalry might have lost a bit of an edge when it was moved to the final game of the season several years ago. It really is a great atmosphere.

Still, I can’t get past what Anderson boys’ coach Glen Drury did two years ago. His team was hopelessly behind a Franklin team that had been sizzling. The Bearcats were down nine points with just a few seconds to go when Drury called timeout. He later said he reminded his team that the real season was beginning the following week.

You know, tournament time.

And even last week, when talking about the Franklin game, Drury noted that he did not want to take anything away from Franklin County and coach Scott Chalk. Even though they were 11-12 after last weekend, Drury noted that Chalk had done a great job coaching Franklin and that the Flyers play a rugged schedule.

“This is a big game, but next week is more important,” he said.

Before the game was moved to the final date of the regular season, you might think that a Franklin assistant coach was riding the Anderson team bus to games to scout. Anderson was doing the same thing too.

For years, the boys met on the Tuesday of the next to last week of the season. It was two heavyweights duking it out for bragging rights, and if you lost, it hurt.

Bad. It might have taken some time to get over it.

Now there is no time to hurt. Anderson comes back Monday in a win-or-go-home game against an Eminence team that has gone 8-5 since Anderson beat the Warriors in January. Granted the competition Eminence has played is not a bunch of Top 10 teams but Drury says, “They won’t be a pushover.”

Then, if Anderson wins that one, it will have to play a very good Spencer County team on its home court the next night. Spencer feels this is its best chance ever to win the 30th District and Eighth Region. The Bears will be favored to end Anderson’s run of 10 straight regional tournament berths, the longest in the Eighth Region.

It is the most daunting task the Bearcats have faced in the post-season since the current team has been old enough to remember.

On the girls’ side, there is little doubt that Anderson and Franklin are huge rivals. But when district play starts, Franklin has a major district threat in Woodford County – the teams split in the regular season – but that will be in the district final. Both could get on a run to win the 11th Region.

Anderson will be a heavy favorite in the 30th, but Friday’s game is just a tuneup.

Friday is big. Next week is bigger.

Two years ago, Drury called a late timeout in a loss. But in mid-March, the Bearcats were playing in Rupp Arena while Franklin County stayed home. Last year, Franklin swept a double-header at Anderson. But when the Girls’ Sweet 16 tipped off, it was Anderson that was still alive.

Which was bigger? There can be no debate on that.

But games like Anderson-Franklin sure are fun.