You know what they say: Defense wins championships.
If that really is the case, Franklin County is looking good.
Behind a strong defensive showing, FCHS got off to a good start and opened the 41st District Tournament with a 69-49 win over Western Hills Tuesday night at the Frankfort Convention Center.
The Flyers (15-11) turned the Wolverines (3-27) over early and often, using a variety of defenses to jump out to an 8-0 lead on their way to a 32-16 halftime advantage.
“I thought our defense in the first half was pretty good,” said FCHS coach Tommy Johnson, whose team has won four of five. “There were some times that we didn’t score, but our defense really stepped up and they didn’t score either.
“I was really proud of the way our guys played defense tonight. I was really worried about how we would start out as far as our effort, but we brought it that first half and I’m really happy with that.”
After routing WHHS for the third time this season, top-seeded FCHS clinches a spot in the 11th Region Tournament and will play the winner of Woodford County (14-14) and Frankfort (5-23) for the district title Friday at 8:15 p.m.
“It’s not going to be easy, either team,” said Johnson, whose team beat WCHS by six and 15 and FHS by 20 and 13 this season. “Frankfort and Woodford County can do a lot of stuff that can hurt us. ... Regardless of who we play, we’re going to have to play just as hard as we did tonight.”
After scoring 34 points and making eight 3s in his last game against the Wolverines, senior Rylan Rowe finished with 25 points — 18 in the first half — and made five 3-pointers this time for the Flyers. Junior Ryan Schneider scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and grabbed six rebounds.
“They did what they can do,” Johnson said. “Rylan can shoot the ball — he shot the ball well. Rylan can attack the basket and find people and finish — he did that well tonight.”
Senior Macaulay Hurst scored 11 points to lead the Wolverines.
FCHS scored the first eight points of the game, then pulled away for good late in the first half and early in the second half.
Up 19-12 midway through the second quarter, senior Chris Roberts converted a putback, senior Lorenzo McCaskell made the second of two free throws and Rowe scored a bucket to push the Flyers’ lead to 12.
Then after senior Chase Mahoney made a short jumper to make it a 10-point game, Rowe hit back-to-back 3-pointers to balloon the margin to 16.
“We did what we said we couldn’t do: we turned the ball over too much early,” said WHHS coach Geoff Cody, whose team led by eight midway through the third quarter before getting beat by 29 the last time it played FCHS. “We said we can’t go without scoring and that’s exactly what we did early.”
The lead quickly grew to 20 in the second half, as Schneider made four straight free throws, Rowe hit another 3 and Roberts scored down low. That made it 45-22 midway through the third quarter.
The Flyers led 51-31 going into the fourth quarter and the Wolverines never got closer than 17 after that.
“I don’t think they quit. I thought they kept battling until the end,” Cody said.
Tuesday night marked the final game for the WHHS senior class of Hurst, Mahoney, Michael Hatfield, ZhaVaughn Reed, Kory Waller, Seth Gyr, Willie Walker and Kyle Fisher.
“I thanked them for playing hard all year and not quitting and not giving up — they could have,” Cody said. “I’m excited about the future, but it’s always tough to see your seniors go. ... It’s a great group of guys and I’ll miss those seniors.”
WESTERN HILLS (49) — Patrick Foley 2, Michael Hatfield 6, ZhaVaughn Reed 7, Macaulay Hurst 11, Chase Mahoney 7, Kory Waller 2, Keaton Anderson 2, Dylan Jones 5, Kyle Fisher 7.
FRANKLIN CO. (69) — Quentin Brownlee 2, Demetrius Wylie 6, Rylan Rowe 25, Lorenzo McCaskell 8, Matthew Lee 2, Sam Mackey 4, Ryan Schneider 16, Chris Roberts 6.
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