By KEVIN HARRIS
INDIANAPOLIS – Crawford County’s historic season ended on a real sour note Saturday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
In their first-ever state championship game appearance, the Wolfpack lost to a hungry and determined Frankton team in the Class 2A state final 60-32. The Eagles (23-6) redeemed themselves in the IHSAA State Finals after they fell in the 2A state title game two years ago to Indianapolis Park Tudor 73-46.
Crawford’s 32 points were a season-low and the fewest scored in a Class 2A state title game. The 28-point differential was the worst loss the Wolfpack suffered in 2016-17. It also was the largest final margin in Class 2A state championship game history.
The main key in Frankton capturing its first state championship in program history was its suffocating defense, especially its full-court press. Crawford County (22-7) committed 25 turnovers, while the Eagles outscored the Wolfpack in points off turnovers by a whopping margin of 36-3. Frankton set a state finals record for most steals in a game with 19.
“I think the thing that was a struggle for us was we don’t see that,” Crawford County head coach Levi Carmichael said about Frankton’s press. “We’ve not seen the run and jump. We’ve not seen the press. We haven’t seen pressure like that really all year. I think it got us back on our heels a little too much, and before we knew it, it was already out of our tempo and out of our pace.”
The Eagles really started applying their pressure after the first media timeout at the 2:54 mark in the first quarter. After senior Adam Beasley hit a free throw to pull the Wolfpack to within 7-6, Frankton closed out the period with an 11-3 run to lead 18-9. During the spurt, the Eagles forced Crawford into four turnovers.
It got worse for the Wolfpack in the second stanza.
Frankton outscored Crawford 14-5 in the quarter to give the Eagles a 32-14 halftime advantage. Eight of Frankton’s 14 points came off six Wolfpack miscues.
The Eagle lead grew to 30 points at the end of the third period at 50-20. The 30-point advantage was the largest lead of the contest for Frankton.
Senior forward Tyrell Nickelson, who entered the game averaging 5.8 points per game, led Crawford County with 14 points.
“He’s been the guy that kind of breaks the ice,” said Carmichael, a former assistant coach at New Albany. “He got going early. We got a lot of dribble-drives by him to the basket. He was just aggressive. When he’s aggressive, he’s a tremendous player. We just needed a couple more (players) to go along with him at that moment early on to break Frankton’s streak a little bit.”
Beasley and Wolfpack junior forward Matt Dearborn each grabbed a game-high six rebounds.
Crawford County said goodbye to five seniors in Beasley, Nickelson, Cameron Marples, Brent Smith and Josh Thomas.
Following the game, Carmichael praised the support given to his program by the Wolfpack faithful during its state championship run.
“I’ve enjoyed the camaraderie,” Carmichael said. “It’s just been neat to see people come together. I think people think they are a part of the program. It’s a community program. It’s not my program. It’s not (the players’) program and I think they understand that’s why people have embraced it.”
Eagle senior Maurice Knight had a huge game. The 6-foot-4 forward poured in a game-high 23 points, shooting 9-of-17 from the field, 2-of-5 from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. Knight also had four steals and two blocked shots. Teammate Landon Weins made a game-high five steals.
CLASS 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
FRANKTON 60, CRAWFORD COUNTY 32
Frankton 18 14 18 10-60
Crawford Co. 9 5 6 12-32
Frankton (23-6): Maurice Knight 23, Kayden Key 8, Patrick Spillman 6, Landon Weins 6, Keegan Freestone 5, Rylan Detling 4, Cole Garner 3, Travis McGuire 3, Brayton Cain 2, Sebastian Davis 0, John Hatzell 0, Will Whatley 0.
Crawford County (22-7): Tyrell Nickelson 14, Adam Beasley 6, Brent Smith 6, Matt Dearborn 4, Wyatt Allinger 2, Christian Carlton 0, Gavin Coleman 0, Cameron Marples 0, Dalton Sheckells 0, Nick Stroud 0, Noah Sturgeon 0, Josh Thomas 0.
3-point field goals: Frankton 3 (Knight 2, Key 1); Crawford County 4 (Nickelson 2, Smith 2).
Rebounds: Frankton 22 (Knight, McGuire 4); Crawford County 28 (Dearborn 6).
Turnovers: Frankton 11, Crawford County 25.
Free throws: Frankton 17-21, Crawford County 10-12.
Total fouls: Frankton 14, Crawford County 17.
Fouled out: none.
CLASS 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME RESULTS
1998: Alexandria 57, Southwestern 43
1999: Westview 71, Paoli 52
2000: Westview 59, Winchester 53
2001: Fort Wayne Harding 73, Batesville 70
2002: Speedway 62, Bluffton 48
2003: Cass 57, Forest Park 48
2004: Jimtown 63, Brownstown Central 59
2005: Forest Park 68, Fort Wayne Harding 63
2006: Forest Park 61, Fort Wayne Harding 55
2007: Northwestern 78, Winchester 74, OT
2008: Fort Wayne Luers 69, Winchester 67
2009: Fort Wayne Luers 67, Brownstown Central 49
2010: Wheeler 41, Indianapolis Park Tudor 38
2011: Indianapolis Park Tudor 43, Hammond Noll 42
2012: Indianapolis Park Tudor 79, Bowman Academy 57
2013: Bowman Academy 86, Linton-Stockton 73
2014: Indianapolis Park Tudor 84, Westview 57
2015: Indianapolis Park Tudor 73, Frankton 46
2016: Lapel 59, Indianapolis Howe 37
2017: Frankton 60, Crawford County 32