Franklin County’s girls’ basketball team is headed back to the state championship. Behind a smothering defensive effort, the No. 6 Flyers knocked off Holmes 51-36 in the semifinals of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA girls’ Sweet Sixteen at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena on Saturday to reach the finals for the second year in a row. They’ll take on No. 3 Mercer County in a rematch of last year’s semifinal bout which the Flyers won 55-51. With a win, Franklin County would become just the second public school from the 11th Region to win a state championship (Henry Clay, 1990).
Franklin held Holmes to just 24 percent field-goal shooting and ended the third quarter on a 10-3 run to take control 39-23 heading into the fourth.
Saturday’s relatively comfortable win provided a welcome respite from the Flyers’ recent flair for the dramatic. Their road to the finals began with a triple-overtime marathon win over Russell County in the first round and continued with a two-point escape over Simon Kenton in the semifinals, as Kindall Talley drained a go-ahead three pointer with 24 seconds to play.
“We’ll certainly sleep a little better tonight,” said Franklin Coach Joey Thacker. “This one was a little easier because we caused them to play out of the paint.”
Franklin County Senior forward Rebecca Cook was held without a field goal, finishing with six points on 6-of-6 free throw shooting, but she was key to the Flyers’ defensive scheme, patrolling the paint to force Holmes away from the basket.
“She’s our defensive condor,” said Thacker.
Holmes hit just 2 of 14 shots from the outside. Jaynice Stovall and Tyrah Englemon led the Bulldogs with nine points apiece.
Princess Stewart, a Xavier commit, led Franklin with 15 points and seven rebounds. Eighth-grader Brooklynn Miles added 12 points and six rebounds.
The Flyers lost five seniors from last year’s state runner-up squad. Thacker said he knew this year’s team could be special despite the turnover on the roster.
“We kinda had a hunch that we could be good, I don’t know that when we got back together and started playing summer ball I believed we could be as good,” said Thacker. “When we beat Male at E-Town in the summer league and had some kids really step up a light bulb went off … hopefully we can do it one more time.”
Franklin County and Mercer County tip-off at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The winner will become a first-time state champion.
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225