RAIDERS FIND A WAY/Prince guides Warren East past Franklin-Simpson, 59-54


Franklin-Simpson stayed within striking distance, but the Warren East High School boys basketball team had an equalizer.

Kaleb Prince, a slender, sinewy point guard, kept the Raiders on the attack on Tuesday night, guiding Warren East to a workmanlike 59-54 victory over the visiting Wildcats.

Here’s the best part:

Prince is just a sophomore, one of three in third-year Warren East coach Kyle Benge’s starting lineup, and his presence makes the Raiders a team to watch heading into KHSAA postseason play.

“We’ve just got to stick together, play hard,” Prince said after his 17-point effort helped the Raiders win for the eighth time in their last nine games.

Warren East improved to 17-7 overall and 13-2 against KHSAA 4th Region opponents. The Raiders went unbeaten in six games against 15th District opponents, and Benge has backloaded a busy final two weeks of regular-season play before Warren East tangles with Glasgow High School in their 15th District Tournament semifinal matchup on February 27 at Allen County-Scottsville.

“Given a choice, you know the kids would rather play more games when they can,” Benge said. “This game felt like a district game, or a regional tournament game … It was physical. (Franklin-Simpson’s) 1-3-1 zone has given us fits for three years.

“I think we did a better job of getting inside, in the second half.”

Franklin-Simpson has gone 6-0 in district play this season, too, but the Wildcats (13-11 overall) will play just twice before they open KHSAA 13th District play at Russellville High School later this month. They’re a more pedestrian 9-7 against 4th Region opponents, but they’re a tough, talented squad awaiting the return of senior swingman Mathias Dickerson from an injury.

“We’ve just got to rebound better. That’s the difference in this game,” Franklin-Simpson coach Dee Spencer said. “We’ve got to do a better job of finishing around the basket. It’s pretty good, that we could hold that team to 59 points, and I thought our young guys played well.

“We’ve been playing in tight games all year. We’ve got to figure out a way to win more of them.”

The lead changed hands several times in the first half, but Warren East was able to keep the Wildcats at arm’s length the rest of the way. Benge has two top-flight shooters from 3-point range — 5-foot-11 sophomore Kyler Pedigo and 6-2 junior Brenden Bratcher — along with football teammates Dane Parsley and Kajarius Barber completing the Raiders’ starting five.

Barber is the lone senior in the bunch.

“That’s a good team we played tonight,” Parsley said. “That’s the kind of team we could face in the region, if we get there. These close games can be stressful, but they’re good for us.”

Barber, an outstanding lineman on the Warren East football squad, is remarkably light on his feet for a big man. Parsley is one of the Raiders’ better rebounders, but Benge will be looking for improvement in that area heading into the postseason.

“We’ve won eight of our last nine games and we want to test our guys,” Benge said. “In the last three, four minutes, we rebounded better and stopped taking silly shots.”

And when all else fails, there’s Kaleb Prince.

The 5-foot-11, 145-pound sophomore hit a couple dazzling shots down the stretch, and if the Raiders had fared better at the free-throw line, they could have won by a comfortable margin. Franklin-Simpson’s Gavin Dickerson scored on an inside basket with 1:32 left in the game, before F-S coach Dee Spencer called a timeout, but the Wildcats couldn’t get the critical stop in the final 90 seconds.

“We hope to have Mathias (Dickerson) back for our Senior Night game against South Warren (on February 22),” Spencer said.

Ray led the Wildcats with 14 points while F-S teammates Jakal Partinger and Gavin Dickerson added 11 and 10, respectively. Prince paced the Raiders with 17 points, while Jordan Hague and Kyler Pedigo finished with 14 and 11, respectively.

“You don’t see many sophomores who can dictate a game like Kaleb (Prince),” Warren East coach Kyle Benge said. “He’s quick as he can be, and he was very unselfish tonight. We’ll get in the gym (Wednesday) and then get ready to play Monroe County on Thursday.”

Warren East won the JV game, 52-49 in overtime.