DAYTON – The Franklin boys’ basketball team is one step away from the state Final Four.
The Wildcats defeated Bellefontaine 87-54 Thursday night in front of 6,124 at University of Dayton Arena.
Franklin (26-1) will play Dayton Dunbar (21-5) in the regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday at UD Arena. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m.
“This is the one everybody has hoped to watch,” Franklin coach Brian Bales said. “I have a lot of respect for Dunbar and coach Pullen is first class. Our guys are ready. We believe in each other and they are on a mission. We are going to give it everything we’ve got Saturday.”
Dunbar defeated Columbus South 72-54 in the first regional semifinal Thursday night at UD Arena.
Saturday will be the first time Franklin and Dunbar will play since the Division II sectional final in February 2013. Dunbar won that game 66-63.
On Thursday night, Franklin shot 55 percent for the game including 62.1 percent in the first half.
Franklin’s Austin Doliboa is fouled by Bellefontaine’s Jacob Rogan during their Division II Regional Semi-final game at UD Arena, Thursday, March 19, 2015.
Franklin was 13 of 27 from beyond the 3-point line for the game.
“It’s awesome,” senior guard Evan Crowe said. “I felt like everybody was hitting tonight.”
Franklin senior guard Luke Kennard had 31 points Thursday night. He is 22 points away from tying Jay Burson for second on the Ohio High School Athletic Association boys’ basketball all-time scoring list.
Franklin led 17-0 in the first quarter and Kennard remembers looking up at the scoreboard in bewilderment.
“I knew we were ready to go,” Kennard said. “I could tell in everybody’s faces in the locker room that we were locked in.”
Franklin made five 3-pointers in the first 2:30 of the game.
“I was more proud of our defense though – I think it gets overlooked when we hit when we did,” Bales said.
Kennard, a Duke signee, was named the Gatorade Ohio Basketball Player of the Year on Thursday morning. Kennard has 2,936 career points.
Thursday was the fifth consecutive postseason game this season at UD Arena for Franklin.
“Our intensity was at an all-time high,” Franklin senior Austin Doliboa said.
Crowe had 20 points including 4 of 9 from 3-pointers.
The game featured some razzle dazzle from the Wildcats including two alley-oop dunks from senior Austin Doliboa, who finished with 16 points on 7 of 8 from the field.
Crowe had a memorable tip in at the end of the third quarter.
Thompson had 15 points – he was 5 of 7 from 3-pointers. Thompson said he wasn’t converting in pregame warmups but felt comfortable early in the first quarter. He is looking forward to Saturday and said the Wildcats wanted to keep the intensity at a high level Thursday night.
The Wildcats couldn’t ask for a better start to the regional tournament. Franklin led 52-24 at halftime and 31-8 at the first quarter.
Bellefontaine (16-10) – Oyer 4 1 10, Mitchell 3 4 10, T. Tillman 2 2 7, Boy 4 0 9, D. Tillman 1 0 2, Nease 0 2 2, Kennedy 2 2 8, Turner 1 0 3, Miller 1 0 3. Totals: 18 11 54
Franklin (26-1) – Doliboa 7 1 16, Riddell 1 0 3, Kennard 11 7 31, Crowe 8 0 20, Thompson 5 0 15, Blevins 1 0 2. Totals: 33 8 87
3-pointers: B 7 (Kennedy 2, Oyer, T. Tillman, Boy, Turner, Miller). F 13 (Thompson 5, Crowe 4, Kennard 2, Riddell, Doliboa).