BY ANTHONY VENCE firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a full house at Clinton Prairie to witness the visiting Frankfort Hot Dogs top the Gophers 57-53 in both team’s season opener Wednesday night.
Jared Catron, in his first game as Hot Dogs’ head coach, led his team to victory while second-year Gophers’ head coach Ryne Smith was out, serving his one-game suspension resulting for his actions during last season’s sectional game. Assistant coach Russ Doyle took over the coaching duties for the Gophers.
Frankfort junior guard Jarrod Smith hit a 3-pointer for the game’s first basket. He finished the game with 18 points and five rebounds.
The Gophers quickly fought back and took a 6-3 lead after sophomore guard Drew Scott fought through heavy traffic for the basket while taking a foul. Scott finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds.
A back-and-forth first quarter ended with the Gophers on top 14-12.
Frankfort junior guard Jordan Campbell scored while drawing a foul early in the second quarter to tie the game then hit the free throw to give the Hot Dogs a one-point advantage. Campbell finished the game with a team-high 19 points, shooting eight of out of 11 free throws.
The Gophers came within one point in the second quarter after junior guard Kale Morris stole a Frankfort pass then ran down court for the easy layup. Morris finished the game with a team-high 20 points.
Frankfort quickly answered with another basket and its own steal and score. Jarrod Smith corralled the steal then drained a 3-pointer, giving the Hot Dogs a five-point lead.
With 2.4 seconds left in the first half a Gopher foul brought Jarrod Smith to the line. He missed both shots, but grabbed the rebound after his final shot and took a buzzer-beating shot that just missed as the ball rimmed out.
Frankfort led 25-22 after two quarters.
Clinton Prairie senior center Doug Coapstick brought the Gophers within two points early in the third quarter after grabbing an offensive board and putting in the layup while taking a foul. He hit the subsequent free throw and finished the game with four points and six boards.
With 4:30 remaining in the third quarter Morris hit a deep three for the Gophers, tying the game a 29.
The two teams traded baskets to close out the third quarter, but Frankfort had a 36-35 advantage going into the final quarter.
Campbell had a couple pivotal plays in the fourth quarter that helped extend Frankfort’s lead. He hit a 3-pointer making the score 41-37 then with 3:44 remaining had a steal and score making it 53-45.
Clinton Prairie senior guard Merrick McGraw gave the Gophers hope late in the fourth quarter. He took a foul with 1:42 remaining and hit both free throws then drove the ball down low for a layup, which brought the Gophers within two points with 1:19 remaining. McGraw finished the game with 14 points and six rebounds.
With the clock winding down Jarrod Smith had a crucial defensive steal for Frankfort and senior guard Cody Bray grabbed a defensive rebound while taking a foul. Bray made both free throws, giving the Hot Dogs a six-point lead with 15 seconds remaining, putting the game out of reach.
Catron said he was proud of the way his inexperienced team played against a tough opponent.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys that come back to me with about five minutes experience and about four players returning,” he said. “These guys brought it together tonight, they played as a team, and they played as a family.”
“They competed and beat a very good Clinton Prairie team that returned everybody,” he added. “That team that we just beat tonight is going to do a lot of things this season, and they’re going to be great things.”
Doyle said Ryne Smith’s absence from the game affected the Gophers’ ability to close out a tight game.
“You can’t replace having your head coach on the bench,” he said. “You get into a close game and that can come down to some coaching decisions; what to run, when to run it, how to run it.”
“We may have had some better results had [Smith] been on the bench.”
The Gophers will have their coach back on the bench for their next game as they host conference opponent Carroll Saturday. Frankfort hopes to carry momentum from the win into its upcoming tournament play. They open tournament play against West Lafayette Monday at Lafayette Jefferson.