By Jim Irish
Photo by Mike Valiska
Despite being 6-foot-6, Cedar Creek’s Kenji Franklin will transfer to point guard for the remainder of the season.
The left-handed sophomore drilled all five of his three-pointers, including four consecutive, in the third quarter of a 62-43 District 23-5A victory over crosstown rival Bastrop at the Bears gym on Tuesday.
"He looked like (NBA's) Steph Curry out there."
-- Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell about Kenji Franklin
Franklin, who missed nine consecutive games with a lower leg injury, delivered the goods with a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds. He added four assists, four steals, and three blocks.
“KJ played lights out,” Cedar Creek coach Valentino Maxwell said. “He looked like (NBA’s) Steph Curry out there.”
Franklin scored 15 points in the third quarter as the Eagles outscored the Bears 27-15 and won their first game in district after five straight losses.
“He sparked the run,” Maxwell said. “We got a little healthier (with the return of Franklin and Kade Masters). The guys who came back are getting in better shape. It seems like we are going in the right direction.”
Cedar Creek started the season with a 13-1 record and were ranked No. 1 in Class 5A in Central Texas by the Austin American-Statesman. But after injuries to Franklin, Robert Conrad, and Kade Masters, the snakebit Eagles lost 10 of 11 games (15-11 overall).
Last season, the Eagles were in contention for the playoffs until Franklin dislocated his toe against Bastrop and missed the majority of district.
The game was close at halftime with Cedar Creek ahead 22-17. Franklin then demonstrated that he could eventually become a Division I prospect.
"In my opionion, (Franklin) is the most talented guy in the district."
“In my opinion, he’s the most talented guy in the district,” Maxwell said. “Teams are going to game plan to stop Kenji, (but) we’re going to move him around on the court.”
Franklin attempted to assert himself inside the first half, but Bastrop was successful in “clogging the paint and making it tough for him,” Maxwell said.
Bastrop coach Eric Woods said Franklin was a “major factor” in the outcome.
“He found his rhythm and connected on several deep 3s,” Woods said. “We weren’t able to recover after that.”
Franklin committed six turnovers in his first game at point guard with most coming in the first half but settled down in the second.
“He adjusted very well,” Maxwell said.
Cedar Creek hit 55% from the floor while Bastrop made 31%. The Bears ( 7-16, 1-5) shot only 21% (5-for-24) from long range.
Brothers Kade and Kole Masters scored 11 and 13 points, respectively. Bryan Allen added 11 points.
Nathaniel Mosley and Jaelyn Gratten led Bastrop with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Micah McDonald (leg) and Conrad (dislocated elbow) will not return this season, Maxwell said.
The Eagles play host to Connally (2-4 in district) on Friday.
Bastrop visits Georgetown (3-3).
Jim Irish is a freelance writer living in Bastrop, Texas