All New Franklin boys basketball coach Ross Dobson wanted was a chance Wednesday night against Eugene in a Class 2 Sectional game at Helias High School in Jefferson City.
Although the Bulldogs entered the game at 27-1 overall, Eugene had the height and plenty of experience with four seniors on the floor.
Unfortunately for New Franklin, Eugene’s height and experience played a major factor late as the Eagles defeated the Bulldogs in overtime 70-64.
New Franklin closed out the season at 27-2 overall, while Eugene improved to 20-6. The Eagles will play Milan (24-3) in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament on Sat., March 7 at Moberly Area Community College. Tip off for the game is 2:45 p.m.
Dobson said Eugene was very long and very athletic.
“You can’t practice that length in normal practice, so they were getting a lot of touches on a couple of passes that we didn’t think they would be able to get to and they got to,” Dobson said. “We had some relapses on offense there down the stretch, where we turned the ball over I think twice and led to easy buckets for them.
“They’re going to be tough. We had to live or die by either losing from the inside or letting them shoot threes. We took our chance on the three pointers. The Kempker kid is pretty good. He sucks you and kicks and passes really well.”
Kempker finished the game with 26 points and 13 rebounds for the Eagles. Kempker also topped the 1,000 point mark in his career during the game.
Senior Dyson Samson also came up big for Eugene from the three with 19 points while Colin Wunderlich-another senior-hit the double digit mark with 10 points.
For New Franklin, senior Tyler Perkins scored a game-high 22 points but was also huge right before the half and again in the fourth quarter and overtime. Gavin Bishop tossed in 18 points while Tre Cowans added 13 for the Bulldogs.
Of course Dobson was just happy to have a chance as the Bulldogs trailed by as much as 10 early in the fourth quarter before rallying back to tie the game at 57-all at the end of regulation.
The Eagles also led for pretty much the entire game, taking a 11-8 lead after one and a 32-31 advantage into the half.
But just like the end of the half last weekend in the district championship game against Smithton, where Perkins hit a NBA three, the senior standout came up big again with a shot off the glass to cut it to one.
It went from bad to worse in the third period as Eugene outscored New Franklin 17-10 to extend the lead to eight at 49-41.
Then, after the Eagles pushed the lead to 10 (41-31), New Franklin began its comeback with six straight to cut it back to four at 51-47 with 4:58 left.
Perkins and Kempker then took the game over for their teams in the remaining minute and 58 seconds in regulation. Perkins scored all but three of the Bulldogs 10 points to lead New Franklin back while Kempker had five of the team’s six points in the final five minutes.
Dobson said when the Bulldogs were down 10 he told the players there were no 10 point shot or six point shots. “We just had to take each possession and have smart passes and smart shots down the stretch,” Dobson said. “I really thought we did that.”
Dobson was also happy to get it to overtime when it looked dire in the fourth quarter for the Bulldogs.
Once in overtime, Perkins single-handedly led New Franklin back with a three and a two to give the Bulldogs the lead at 62-60 with 2:17 left.
However, the Eagles responded with a three by Samson and a two from Kempker to make it 65-62.
New Franklin junior Tysen Dowell then scored the two biggest points of his career to cut the lead back to one (65-64) with 1:15 left.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they would get no closer in the ballgame as Eugene rattled off the next five points for the victory.
Dobson said the Bulldogs had opportunities.
“We missed a rebound there at the end of regulation that I thought was huge,” Dobson said. “That was one of those things that we really needed to focus on was rebounding, but you can’t be disappointed. Our boys gave it everything they had. We tied it to send it to overtime and were winning at one point, so I am very proud of them. Those seniors set the tone and this team set the tone of what is expected of them in the future. This was one of our highest winning seasons of all-time so you can’t be made about it.”
Tysen Dowell had seven points in the game for the Bulldogs while Jackson Dorson and Crayton Gallatin added two points each.