Heading into Tuesday's game, Central High School boys' basketball had been the winners of nine straight games, going all the way back to Jan. 3 against Warren County. Taking on Franklin County, the Red Raiders were unable to follow up on an earlier win over the Rebels, falling 70-62.
"We just have to get better defensively. We had a defensive breakdown tonight," Coach Micah Williams said. "Defense is still one of the positives of this team, but it's tough. It's tough coming on the road after being at home so many games in a row."
The Raiders were able to make it a close game at various points, but struggled with rebounding issues throughout the game. Extra possessions for the Rebels combined with other problems on defense allowed Franklin County to take off in spurts to put distance between themselves and CHS.
"Getting down to them early didn't help. Defense killed us, we've got to get back in the gym, focus on defense," Darius Rozier said. "We shouldn't have been down in the first place but either way I'm still proud of these guys no matter what."
The Raiders went up early in the first quarter, taking a 6-2 lead through the first three minutes. Franklin County hit four points to tie it over the next minute, briefly taking its first lead before Rod Brinkley put CHS back in front 8-7. Tied at 8-8 not long after, Franklin County hit eight unanswered to put some distance between itself and the Raiders, taking an 18-9 lead after one.
CHS looked ready to turn things around early in the second. Buckets from Harley Hinshaw and Jaxon Vaughn brought CHS back in front for a 19-18 lead, but the Rebels took off with nine unanswered to take back control. With Franklin County up 29-22 the near the close of the first half, Hinshaw hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to tighten the Rebels' lead to 29-25.
The Raiders opened the second half with a three-pointer from Chase Simpkins, further closing the gap to 29-28. A flurry of offense followed from both teams, with Franklin County staying just ahead of CHS for much of the quarter. The Rebels again broke away down the stretch for a 50-40 lead at the end of the third.
CHS had its best offensive performance of the night in the fourth quarter, hitting 24 points. Rozier alone brought in 12. It was not enough to move past Franklin County, who brought the boys' nine-game winning streak to a close.
With a regular-season district championship, the loss offered some reflection and lessons for the team in anticipation of the upcoming district tournament. Following Thursday's game at Shelbyville, the tournament will kick off on Feb. 9, with the Raiders set to play on Feb. 15.
"We've got to learn to stay together in a loss. We've lost before, it's nothing new," Rozier said. "Staying together is what we need to do right now."
Rozier led the way for CHS with 21 points. He was followed by 12 points from Hinshaw and 11 from Vaughn. Simpkins finished the night with seven. Kyle Farless added four points, just ahead of CJ Anthony's three. Brinkley, Shawn Anderson and Conner Shemwell all had two points each.