On a night to honor the seniors, the New Franklin boys basketball team gave a few seconds to teammate Carter Bailey before the game.
A starter for the Bulldogs the last two years, Bailey went down with a knee injury that ended his season. So while standing at mid-court for the jump ball, Bailey stood in the circle for a brief moment to end his night to a standing ovation.
Of course there were plenty more highlights during the night as New Franklin recorded its 22nd win of the season by beating Pilot Grove 78-55.
New Franklin improved to 22-1 overall and 7-1 in the Central Activities Conference while Pilot Grove fell to 9-13 overall and 2-7 in the CAC.
Dobson said if the season ended today, he couldn’t be more prouder of the guys. “They have given me everything they’ve had up to this point and I don’t expect anything less for the rest of the year,” Dobson said. “This is a senior-led group that wants to do really good things not just for themselves but for the guys in the locker room, for the people in the community and just all those good things, and you kind of saw it tonight for us.”
With two games remaining in the regular season and districts starting next week in Smithton, the Bulldogs looked every bit as good as their record while jumping out to a 24-7 first quarter lead  and a 42-27 advantage at the half.
The senior class also did its part for New Franklin by combining for 54 of the team’s 78 points.
Gavin Bishop led the Bulldogs with 26 points while Tyler Perkins added 20 and Crayton Gallatin eight. As for the rest of the team for New Franklin, junior Tysen Dowell chipped in 13 while Tre Cowans added seven and David Brucks and Caleb Hull each with two points.
Dobson said Senior Night was pretty cool.
“They’ve did their time and worked hard all four years,” Dobson said. “The Gallatin kid is getting a lot of playing time now. It’s his time to play. Dorson is getting his playing time. Tyler and Gavin have been playing sice they were probably freshmen so they are being leaders. One is more out-spoken than the other but they are just doing it by example.”
As for Pilot Grove, they had only one player in double figures for the game as senior Cole Meisenheimer tossed in 14 points. Hayden Krumm chipped in nine while Bailey Quint added eight, Dylan Schupp, Dade Christy and Kealin Vinson six each, Bo Vinson three, Seth Blumhorst two and Dalton Reuter with one.
Pilot Grove coach Derek Skaggs said the boys came out and buried themselves early in the contest. “We scraped along all night to fight back, but New Franklin was just too much tonight,” Skaggs said. “They are a great ballclub.”
That showed in the third quarter as New Franklin again outscored Pilot Grove 15-9 to extend the lead to 21 (57-36).
Perkins also had a big third quarter for the Bulldogs with eight of the team’s 15 points. Those eight points also turned out to be the final points in the quarter.
Up by 21 with eight minutes left, New Franklin came out and outscored Pilot Grove 9-1 for the first two and a half minutes to extend the lead to 66-38. But from that point on with most of the starters on the bench for New Franklin, the Tigers rallied back with a five point advantage (17-12) to cut the lead back to 23.
New Franklin will play at Glasgow on Thursday and then closeout the regular season in a makeup game Friday at home against Cairo. Pilot Grove will end the season at Slater on Thursday.