FRANKFORT — Defending state champion Madison Central survived a tough 11th Region opener, holding on to beat Franklin County 75-72 in the Frankfort Convention Center Thursday night.
"We're still playing," Indians Coach Allen Felhdaus Jr. said. "I don't care who we play, we're still playing."
The Indians are a completely rebuilt team this season after graduating Dominique Hawkins, Ken-Jah Bosley & Co.
Hawkins, who now plays at Kentucky, was at Madison Central Thursday afternoon and talked to the players, and he cheered them on at the game Thursday night.
"He congratulated us and told us to play hard," junior Sam Jones said. "We definitely have big shoes to fill after last year."
On its way to the 2013 state title, Madison Central flattened Franklin County 85-49 in its region opener. But the Indians had to fight to the finish against the Flyers this time around.
Madison Central's inside duo of Jones and Demarcus George led the way. Jones, a 6-foot-4 junior, had 20 points and eight rebounds. George, a 6-1 senior, had 19 points and 13 rebounds. They helped the Indians to a 44-33 advantage on the boards and a 21-13 edge in second-chance points.
Cameron Thomas added 12 points and nine rebounds.
"That's the offense we run," Feldhaus said. "We keep Sam and Demarcus underneath the basket, and we rebound the heck out of it."
Rylan Rowe shot the heck out of it for Franklin County. He hit 11 of 26 field goals, including three of 10 threes, on his way to 30 points. He made all five of his free throws.
"I can't fault our defense too much," Feldhaus said. "He just hit some tough shots. He's hard to handle."
Lorenzo McCaskell had 13 points for the Flyers, and Chris Roberts added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Franklin County led 57-54 with five minutes left before Madison Central went ahead to stay. But it wasn't a comfortable lead. The Indians were up 68-67 before pulling away in the last minute.
Madison Central ran hot and cold and hot at the foul line. It made nine of 10 free throws in the first half, missed nine of its first 14 in the second half, then made 16 of their last 18.
"That's been our Achilles heel all year," Feldhaus said. "We've lost 10 games, and I guarantee you in five of them we shot less than 50 percent from the foul line. But we have improved the last few weeks because we've been working our tails off on it."
MADISON CENTRAL 75, FRANKLIN COUNTY 72
FRANKLIN COUNTY (15-13) — Rowe 30, McCaskell 13, Wiley 6, Roberts 10, Schneider 8, Brownlee 5.
MADISON CENTRAL (22-10) — George 19, Jones 20, Alexander 6, Humphrey 9, Thomas 12, Johnson 7, Williams 2.
Franklin County 16 13 18 25—72
Madison Central 18 16 13 28—75