By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — FRANKFORT — In a boys basketball game that was physical throughout and chippy at times, Frankfort built a big lead and then held off Western’s comeback bid to claim a 66-58 win Saturday night at Case Arena.
The Hot Dogs (5-2) had a 17-point advantage deep in the third quarter when things became interesting. Western guard Evan Warden scored nine points over the final 2:20 of the quarter to help draw the Panthers within 47-37. The Panthers seemed to come alive following a dust-up in which the teams exchanged pushes and shoves.
The Panthers (3-3) carried the momentum over to the fourth quarter. They closed to within one, 53-52, when Mo Townsend hit a 3-pointer off a Des Balentine assist at 4:18. The Hot Dogs followed with a 5-0 run for a 58-52 lead at 1:55, but the Panthers kept battling and closed to within 60-58 at :20.1. The Hot Dogs knocked down 6 of 6 free throws the rest of the way to secure the win.
“It was a very physical ballgame,” Western coach Bart Miller said. “There was more than just the one dust-up. There were quite a few. I was thinking, ‘As physical as this ballgame is and as competitive as both teams are, something might end up [escalating].’ The refs did a nice job of keeping it from getting out of control.”
The Hot Dogs took control in the second quarter when they blitzed the Panthers with a 20-0 run over the final 6:36. The Panthers led 15-10 after the opening quarter, but trailed 31-18 at halftime.
“We let their physicality really take over in the second quarter,” Miller said. “The first quarter, we were fine. The second quarter, we started looking for calls and they weren’t calling them, but they weren’t calling them against us either. Our guys need to adjust to that.
“The second half, our guys adjusted and the guys put on a heck of a fight for us. The problem was, we got too far behind there in the second quarter.”
In the pivotal second quarter, Western made just 1 of 14 shots from the field while Frankfort was 7 of 15 from the field. In addition, the Hot Dogs had a 16-3 rebounding advantage in the quarter. The Hot Dogs owned the glass throughout the game.
Frankfort’s lead peaked at 18 on two occasions (39-21 and 41-23) early in the third quarter.
Western used 3-point shooting to help fuel its comeback. Western made five triples in the second half.
“We got it up and did some nice things, but when [the Panthers] shoot the ball like that, they’re tough to defend,” Frankfort coach Tom Weeks said. “They did a tremendous job shooting the basketball.
“Our kids stepped up to the plate when the challenge came. When you have two good teams playing, and we’re able to weather their storm and expand the lead back out once they closed in, that’s what you’re looking for and I was proud of our guys.”
In the end, Frankfort’s overwhelming dominance on the glass was a difference in the game. The Hot Dogs had a 44-20 rebounding advantage — i ncluding a 14-4 edge in offensive rebounds.
Frankfort forward Christian Smith nearly out-rebounded Western by himself as he grabbed 18 rebounds. Guard Isaac Rudd took 10 boards.
“It’s been a broken record for us this year — rebounding,” Miller said. “It’s amazing we were as close as we were when you’re losing the rebound battle by that much.”
Guard Brody Kirby led the Hot Dogs with 21 points. Smith had 16 points and Rudd had 14.
Warden led the Panthers with a season-high 21 points. Townsend hit three 3-pointers and had 13 points.
“Warden had his best game of the year as far as scoring and his floor game was good, making good decisions and staying within the offense,” Miller said. “Des Balentine did a great job in the fourth. We just kept running him off ball screens and let him make the decision. I think he made the right decision every time — not that we scored every time, but we got the ball to the right person for a good look.”