How good could the Franklin County Lady Flyers be again this season?
The two-time defending 11th Region champion saw its player of the year candidate Princess Stewart held to just five points on 2-for-12 shooting, and it still defeated fellow region contender Lafayette in their own gym – by 30 – 70-40 on Tuesday night.
“That’s our M.O., regardless,” Franklin County Coach Joey Thacker said of his team and Stewart, who has committed to play college ball at Xavier. “She’s a special, special basketball player that plays on an unselfish basketball team. She could have forced a lot of stuff, but she didn’t. She played through what we we're trying to do. … And, then, all those deflections that lead to steals on this end are caused by her, and that never shows up in the box score.”
Lafayette (2-2), expected to make its own run deep into tournament play in a few months, had the misfortune of getting a Franklin County team coming off a loss Sunday to 1st Region favorite Murray at the Marshall County Hoop Fest. Whatever wasn’t working for the Lady Flyers in that 70-60 defeat fell into place against the Generals.
“We kind of got humbled a little bit Sunday against Murray, and, obviously, they’re a top-five team in the state, but I thought we shared the ball really, really well,” Thacker said.
The Lady Flyers (3-1) had 13 assists, eight of those in the first half, and four players in double-figure scoring led by senior forward Savannah Courtney, who had 17 points on 7-for-11 from the field, including 2-of-3 from three-point range. The team was 6-of-12 from three-point range in the first half as the Lady Flyers built a 41-21 lead. They finished 8-for-18 from three for the game.
“We did good as a team taking smart shots, and our defense, we did pretty good,” said Courtney, who’s adjusting to a leadership role on the team and playing more underneath the basket than she has in years past. “I have to get used to it, but it’s all about getting your legs underneath you … you just play through it and play the game.”
Franklin County also got 15 points from Brooklynn Miles, an eighth-grader who has broken into the starting lineup.
“Well, she’s halfway decent,” Thacker said, jokingly. “She’s getting a feel for playing with some kids who quite honestly she’s not played a lot with. She’s done a really good job of distributing the basketball for us, taking care of it, and in the open floor, she’s lights out.”
Though exasperated that her shot wasn’t falling Tuesday, Stewart expressed confidence in her team and her new backcourt mate.
“I think we’re quicker than last year. At some spots, we’re definitely quicker,” Stewart said. “She (Miles) definitely stepped up tonight … Everybody else was hitting and we came out with a 'W,' so that’s all I’m worried about.”
Lafayette returns all five of its starters from last year, including senior center Kiara Pankins, another contender for 11th Region player of the year. Pankins scored 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting, but the Generals struggled to deal with Franklin County’s defensive pressure, committing 23 turnovers and shooting only 37 percent from the field as a team.
For the Generals, Tuesday’s loss offers a chance to assess and regroup.
“I don’t think anything they gave us tonight was anything we couldn’t handle,” Pankins said. “I think, honestly, that game was about us. … Obviously, they’re a good team … I know what type of team they are, and, I guess, I don’t think everyone was mentally prepared for this tonight.”
FRANKLIN CO. 70, LAFAYETTE 40
Franklin Co. — Talley 10, Stewart 5, Cook 11, Miles 15, Hogan 2, Simpson 2, Courtney 17, Jordan 2, Thacker 6.
Lafayette — DiBilzan 2, Bennett 10, Pankins 21, Wilson 4, Abram 3.
Records: Franklin County (3-1); Lafayette (2-2).