COLUMBIA – Eric Franklin isn’t ready to play his last basketball game as a Kewpie.
The Hickman senior captain will be leading his team against rival Rock Bridge in the Class 5, District 9 championship game at 7 p.m. Friday night at Holt High School in Wentzville.
Rock Bridge (24-2) at Hickman (15-9)
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
Where: Holt High School in Wentzville
It’ll be the third time the two have met this season, but only the second time Franklin will be involved. He had to miss the first game, a 74-57 Rock Bridge victory, because he was injured.
“I was bummed at the time, 'cause it was my last chance to play at home against Rock Bridge,” Franklin said.
Franklin came back in the second game to lead his team in scoring with 10 points, but Hickman lost 63-45.
For Franklin, that loss is just added incentive for Friday’s rematch.
“Going back to Rock Bridge to play the second time, it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to,” Franklin said, “so hopefully we’ll get a win this time.”
As one of only two seniors on the Hickman team this season, Franklin has been a leader on the court in every game and every practice.
Kewpies coach Ken Ash said Franklin’s leadership goes beyond basketball, though.
“He’s basically what we want all Hickman basketball players to be: great off the court, in the classroom, and on the court he’s the hardest worker,” Ash said. “He’s a great example.”
Ash said leadership was really needed in the beginning of the season and now, the rest of the team has matured.
“At the beginning of the year, it was a fresh bunch. Eric was really the only one out there with varsity experience,” Ash said. “Their immaturity at the beginning of the season kind of hampered our team from blossoming early, but now they have grown up.”
With sophomores and juniors composing the bulk of the roster, plenty of the Hickman players will have a chance to get back to this point next year. But Franklin won’t, and he’s made sure his teammates know that.
“I talked to the players and told them this could be my last time playing with them,” Franklin said.
Ash said he thinks all the players will be stepping up their performances on Franklin’s behalf.
“They want to make sure Eric goes out the way Eric wants to go out,” Ash said, “and he wants to go out with some wins.”
As for that constant intensity Franklin brings to every game, he said he plans to raise it against Rock Bridge.
“It’s now or never, I got to go out there and leave it all out on the court,” he said. “I got to make something happen.”
Hickman will be the underdog against Rock Bridge again, but Ash said that doesn’t bother him.
“They got all the pressure,” he said. “They’re favored to win state, so all the pressure’s on them.”