LAPEL — The Frankton Eagles went into the Lapel gym Saturday, March 3, ranked fourth in the state in Class 2A; but when the dust settled, the home team emerged with its second sectional title in three years.
Earned, not given, the Bulldogs edged the Eagles 67-65 in overtime.
Lapel worked every quarter — taking a five-point lead at halftime and leading late in the fourth quarter 53-41 — with offensive performances from five Bulldogs in double digits, including junior Luke Richardson with 19 points and 14 rebounds. That was the first time this season so many Bulldogs hit double figures.
Senior Preston Scott scored 17 with five free throws. His final toss from the stripe gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead with 10 seconds remaining.
Sophomore Carson Huber added the final point from the line with six seconds left.
Coach Jimmie Howell said while the win may have been unexpected, his team played some of its best ball of the season with several players doing what they needed to do.
“Early in the season, we went through some tough times with some injuries, and the younger kids had to step up,” he said. “We’ve made great strides since the start of the season.”
Arabian Caleb Bloom, a 6-foot-4 senior, said the team wanted to have another “Paoli” moment against Frankton, a reference to a Jan. 20 Bulldog win. “We upset the No. 2-ranked team in the state and wanted to recreate that.”
In the opening round of play, the Bulldogs defeated Elwood 66-51 with the help of Richardson who had 25 points; senior Austin Lyons with 16; sophomore Bryce Carpenter with 11; and Scott with 10. The Bulldogs out rebounded Elwood 30-16.
Carrying the momentum into round two, Lapel overpowered Wapahani 58-51. Shooting 71 percent from the field, Richardson tallied 26 points to lead all scorers.
Perhaps meeting its sectional opponents in the regular season — losing to two of them and edging one of them by a single point — had Lapel ready for do-overs once it was back to full strength.
The Bulldogs lost to Frankton 54-42 in the second game of the season, lost to Wapahani 51-43 in the fifth game and eked out a 67-66 overtime win against Elwood at the end of January.
Lapel’s last sectional win in 2016 ended with a state championship, but the path back to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse won’t be an easy one.
The Bulldogs meet eighth-ranked Oak Hill in the Saturday, March 10, regional at Lapel.
“They (Oak Hill) are definitely a top 10 in 2A, or maybe even a top five,” Howell said.
The Golden Eagles are 22-5. They’ve won 13 of the past 14 games and 10 in a row. Their only lost in that period came from Class 4A Lawrence North.
With senior players Caleb Middlesworth at 6-feet-8 and David Arens at 6-7, Oak Hill continues to have depth in the height department as two other players measure in at 6-5.
“They’re playing their best ball of the year,” Howell said. “We have to play a turnover-free game.”
Howell has been trying to get Oak Hill on Lapel’s regular schedule for several years, and next season will be the Bulldogs’ first time meeting during the regular season.
The Bulldog-Golden Eagle tipoff is at noon. Covington and Tipton meet in the morning game at 10:30 a.m. The winners square off in the regional championship at 8 p.m.
Contact Lapel High School for regional tickets and sectional championship T-shirts. All-session tickets cost $10.