Prep girls basketball: Bicknell happy to do what’s necessary as Franklin braces for regional final

Franklin High School senior Emma Bicknell
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Franklin High School senior Emma Bicknell

FRANKLIN — Emma Bicknell is a senior guard who hasn’t played a second in the postseason for Franklin High School’s girls basketball team.

However you might expect a senior to react to a situation like that, Bicknell will tell you this: She’s thrilled.

“I’ve played for 13 years and I’ve never had anything like it,” said Bicknell, with the Wildcats (22-4) set to face Carroll (25-2) for a Division II regional championship Friday night at Springfield. “It’s been one of my favorite seasons. I honestly didn’t know we’d come this far, but it’s beyond me that we’re even here. I’m so proud of my team for it.”

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She’s one of four seniors for Franklin. Layne Ferrell, Skyler Weir and Emily Newton are all starters. Bicknell has scored 20 points all season.

The fact that she’s remained upbeat through a challenging campaign, which has included chunks of time off because of shin splints and a broken nose, has helped the Wildcats be a harmonious unit.

“Emma’s had kind of a hard-luck season,” Franklin coach John Rossi said. “It would’ve been easy to cop a bad attitude. She’s been to every practice. She comes to every game. She’s been a great cheerleader on the bench.

“We have a camera person across from the bench, so when there’s timeouts and made baskets, we can see what the kids are doing on the bench. They’ve been so engaged and so energized throughout this whole tournament run, and Emma’s been a key part of it.

“Her team goal is to be a good teammate and be as supportive as she can. That’s pretty good for somebody who has gotten zero playing time during this tournament run. Emma has done a great job accepting the decisions that not only the coaches have made, but also the decisions our trainer and her doctor have made. She epitomizes what a good student-athlete at Franklin High School is all about.”

Bicknell dressed for Tuesday’s regional semifinal against Valley View, returning from her broken nose and a concussion suffered in practice after the regular season ended. She’s been cleared to play and hopes to be wearing a clear mask to protect her nose Friday.

Will she get a chance to play the rest of the tournament? Rossi said that’s always an in-game decision. Bicknell plans to be ready regardless.

“I’m so ready,” she said. “I’m glad to be back.”

Bicknell would love to contribute on the floor somehow. She’ll admit it isn’t easy to be the only senior on the bench. But she believes every player has a role, and if the coaches think this is the best thing for the team right now, then so be it.

Franklin’s Layne Ferrell (30) follows a steal with a layup during Tuesday night’s Division II regional basketball semifinal against Valley View at Springfield. Franklin won 47-39 in overtime. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Franklin’s Layne Ferrell (30) follows a steal with a layup during Tuesday night’s Division II regional basketball semifinal against Valley View at Springfield. Franklin won 47-39 in overtime. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

“I’ve accepted everything the coaches have put on me. I’m feeling better about it now,” Bicknell said. “I’m there to be a good teammate and push everybody. That’s my role now. If I get in, I’ll go in and do what I need to do. I try my best all the time.”

She said Franklin’s historic success is a combination of ability and camaraderie. The Wildcats returned practically their entire team this season after making it to the regional semifinals last year, and the bonds within the group have strengthened.

“We took a lot more bonding days this year, like bowling and having meals together,” Bicknell said. “I think that’s definitely helped us.”

What about the recent practice session that became a game of wiffle ball? Was Bicknell one of the stars?

“Definitely not,” she said with a smile. “The softball players and Coach Matt (Abshear) … they were the ones.”

Bicknell said the overtime win over Valley View was exhilarating. She loved Franklin’s student and community support. Being a Wildcat is part of her DNA.

“It’s everything to me,” Bicknell said. “I’ve been here my whole life. My parents went here. I’ve known nothing else but to be a Wildcat. I love this community with everything in me because we’re so supportive of each other, whether it’s in sports or whatever it is.”

She plans to attend Miami University and major in early childhood education. Bicknell believes Franklin can make it to Columbus for the Final Four next week, and if that’s the way her prep athletic career ends, she thinks that would be perfect.

“We always sing and dance in the locker room. When we’re in there and laughing at whatever, I’m like, ‘I’m going to miss these moments,’ ” Bicknell said. “I’m sad it’s going to be over soon, but it’s a good way to end senior year.”

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The Franklin-Carroll matchup is a meaty one. The Wildcats beat the Patriots 53-51 in triple overtime last year to secure a district championship.

Rossi isn’t surprised these teams have found their way back to each other.

“Nothing against all the other teams in the area, but from Day 1, I’ve felt we were the two best teams going at it,” he said. “Sitting in that tournament draw, I knew where Carroll was going to go. I felt like they were the best team. We wanted to play them last. That’s the reason we went on the board where we went. Everything has worked out to a ‘T’ so far.”

Carroll has multiple weapons and is led in scoring by senior Elisabeth Bush (12.9), junior Julia Keller (12.7), junior Allie Stefanek (8.0) and sophomore Megan Leraas (7.5).

The Patriots can shoot the 3, play physical and get to the rim.

“We’re really going to be challenged with their quickness on the perimeter, and Keller and Bush can really hurt you on the inside and outside,” Rossi said. “They’re just so fundamentally sound. They’re not going to make a lot of mistakes.

“Both teams like to play defense. With their guards out front, it’s going to be a tough matchup for us. But on the flip side, I think we’re going to be a tough matchup for them.”

Carroll coach Cecilia Grosselin said her team generally has a calm demeanor in the face of adversity. The Patriots play a rugged schedule and have won the last two Greater Catholic League Coed North Division titles.

Grosselin said Carroll hasn’t focused on a possible rematch with Franklin. She said the Patriots have elevated their game since last year’s district final.

“Last year we had some leadership problems on the court,” Grosselin said. “Nobody really wanted to step in and take charge. That’s kind of a different story this year … I hope it is.”

Bush said the players haven’t forgotten last year’s defeat.

“I think most of the team wanted to play Franklin anyway to see where we’re at because we’ve definitely improved since last year,” she said. “We know it’s going to be a dogfight, but we’re ready. I think we’re going to have a good showing.”

Carroll has been to state once before, finishing second in 2011. Franklin has already made school history by reaching this point.

“I don’t think everything’s sunk in yet because the kids have taken a businesslike approach that this is where we expected to be late in the year,” Rossi said. “I think once everything is all said and done — and hopefully it’s next weekend — the kids will realize what they’ve done for this program and this community and this school.”

Friday’s Game

What: Division II regional girls basketball final, Franklin (22-4) vs. Carroll (25-2)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Springfield High School, 701 E. Home Road, Springfield

Next: The Franklin-Carroll winner will advance to the state semifinals Thursday at Ohio State University's Schottenstein Center, facing either Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary or Poland Seminary at 6 p.m.