Wildcats lose rhythm in second half, fall to Adair County
Franklin-Simpson played solid basketball for 16 minutes. It was the other 16 minutes that didn’t go in its favor.
The Wildcats, a young team who is still searching for all-around consistency, played tight with Region 5 foe Adair County for the entire first half but lost their rhythm in the second and suffered an 80-60 loss on Thursday in the Rafferty’s Caveland Classic at Edmonson County High School.
Franklin (4-9 overall) trailed by just one at 16-15 after the opening quarter and went into halftime only down 34-28. However, the Wildcats were then outscored by the Indians (6-5) 46-32 over the course of the third and fourth quarters.
“We’ve just gotta do a better job rebounding and finishing around the basket and quit fouling,” Franklin-Simpson coach Dee Spencer said. “We went through a little scoring drought (in the second half) and turned the ball over a couple of times in a row and they hit a couple of threes to stretch the lead out. It’s been the same story all year.”
Adair County, which entered the contest after edging host Edmonson County 66-58 on Wednesday, played at a completely different level against the Wildcats. The Indians found their offense, stepped up their intensity on the defensive side of the ball and had multiple players step up.
Zion Harmon – the top-rated freshman in the nation and a former Bowling Green Purple – dropped a game-high 34 points while sharpshooter Corey Melton made four three pointers and finished with 23 points. Additonally, Hunter Cundifff added seven points.
“It’s great,” Harmon said of the chemistry the Indians are building. “(We’re focused on) playing as a team and making it to state. We’ve just gotta keep playing our game and keep playing as hard as we can.”
The two sides exchanged baskets all throughout the first quarter.
After Franklin-Simpson’s Dee Ragland knocked down a trio of three-pointers and Kyler Pritchett scored inside to put the Wildcats in front at 11-9, Harmon hit a contested jumper from the left corner to tie it at 11-all with just over two minutes remaining in the first.
A steal and layup by Ragland just before the buzzer sounded cut the Wildcats’ deficit to 16-15 after one. Ragland already had 11 points while Harmon had tallied nine.
Adair County used a 5-0 run to push its lead to 27-21 at the 3:36 mark of the second. Melton splashed a three from the left corner and Anthony Payne scored off a Melton assist on the following possession.
Harmon’s three-point play made it 30-22, but Franklin-Simpson’s DeMarco Chatman knocked down a deep ball to bring it to within five. Another three by the sophomore then cut the Indians’ lead to just two at 30-28 with just over two minutes left in the opening half.
“Franklin hit some shots – they hit six threes in that first half,” Adair County coach Deron Breeze said. “Defensively, we’re just not very good man-to-man. We’ve gotta be a good zone team – that’s the only way we’re gonna come out of our region.”
A pair of baskets by Adair County before the conclusion of the quarter put them up 34-28 at halftime. At the break, Harmon had 16 points while Melton had 10. Ragland was carrying Franklin-Simpson with 13 and Chatman had six.
Ragland finished with 17 points to carry the Wildcats.
“Every year it takes Corey until about January to get going and this was probably only the fifth or sixth game he’s played,” Breeze said. “It’s going to take him a little bit longer. He’s been suspended a couple of times – once by me and once by the state – but he’s getting back into a rhythm.”
Adair County come out of the locker room and quickly went to work in the second half.
The Indians opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run and took a 41-28 lead – their largest of the game. Franklin-Simpson responded with a pair of buckets, but a deep top-of-the-key three by Harmon made it 44-32 at the 5:03 mark of the period.
Cundiff nailed a three just before buzzer to put Adair County up 51-43 entering the fourth.
“It felt good tonight,” Cundiff said. “We’re finally starting to click as a team. We’re finally hitting our threes. Everyone is contributing in ways that we haven’t seen in recent seasons.”
Adair County built another double-digit lead of 55-45 after Melton knocked down a pair of free throws. Pritchett and Dawson Knight each scored inside following Melton’s foul shots, but the Wildcats still trailed 57-49 with just over four minutes remaining.
Melton knocked down his fourth three of the contest and Harmon stole a Franklin inbounds pass and swished one of his own to push the Indians’ advantage to 73-54 with 2:14 left – and that sealed it.
“We’ve struggled a lot on offense this year for the fact that we’re now running a lot of stuff that we think Zion is going to get one-on-one coverage and everyone just go off of him, but that’s not the case,” said Breeze. “We’ve had to adjust – and we’re going to adjust some more after Christmas – but I thought the offense flowed a whole lot better today.”
Both the Wildcats and Indians will return to action on Friday in the third and final day of the Caveland Classic.