LAPEL — An unusual start time may have contributed to an overall sluggish performance by the Lapel High School boys basketball team Saturday. But a huge performance by Lapel’s best player and another shut-down defensive effort helped the Bulldogs continue building momentum as they head toward sectional play at the end of the month.
Jon Ross Richardson scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead a dominant team effort on the glass as Lapel held off a scrappy Eastern Hancock team 52-43 for its third-straight win.
Lapel improved to 12-7 on the season, while the Royals fell to 10-7.
“I don’t think either team played very well,” Lapel coach Jimmie Howell said. “Nobody is used to playing Saturday afternoon games. I didn’t see any energy from either team today.”
Although Richardson failed to connect on any 3-point shots, he repeatedly got to the basket for layups and scored on offensive rebounds. With his brother, sophomore Luke Richardson, and junior Preston Scott, who had 10 rebounds each, Jon Ross and the Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 42-25.
“Well, he was active,” Howell said of his senior forward. “Preston at times is active — we obviously need him to be more active. It was a good thing we had Rossie today.”
The Richardson brothers scored four points each during a 10-0 run in the first quarter for Lapel to take an 18-9 lead early in the second quarter. When the Royals closed to within four at 32-28 in the third quarter, Jon Ross Richardson scored seven straight Bulldog points to stretch the lead back to double figures at 39-29 early in the fourth quarter.
But the Royals hung around, despite just five points from their leading scorer, Addison True. The junior guard entered the game averaging more than 17 points per game, but Howell’s defense kept him under wraps throughout the day.
“We wanted to stay out on him,” Howell said. “We wanted to make him put it on the floor to score.”
In this current three-game winning streak, the Bulldogs effectively have shut down their opponents’ leading scorers. Jon Ross Richardson, who also had three blocked shots in the game, said team defense is something the Bulldogs take a great deal of pride in.
“It’s our goal to shut down their best player,” he said. “Today we really did that, and I’m really proud of everybody for doing it.”
Luke Richardson added 10 points and junior Austin Lyons scored 11 in support of Jon Ross Richardson’s afternoon. Junior Josiah Hudson and senior Will Jones handed out three assists each.
Jon Ross Richardson said he feels this team, after struggling early in the year, is peaking at the right time.
“Building that momentum is really big this last part of the season,” he said. “We have a couple tough weekends coming up and with this momentum — I feel like we can go into those games and pick up some wins.”
The Bulldogs will travel to Shenandoah Friday, Feb. 10, before hosting Hagerstown Saturday, Feb. 11, with both games scheduled to get underway at 7:30 p.m.
In the junior varsity contest, Eastern Hancock knocked off the Bulldogs 49-46, despite 28 points from freshman Cole Alexander. Freshman Bryce Carpenter scored 10 points and snagged 10 rebounds; freshman Carson Huber had seven assists; Alexander also had two steals to lead Lapel.
Vs. Guerin Catholic
Three Bulldogs scored in double figures in what Howell said was the team’s biggest win of the year. But it was a player who scored just two points that made the play of the game and sparked Lapel to victory.
Lapel went on a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter, with Jones making a key steal and layup, as the Bulldogs held on late for a 51-50 win at Guerin Catholic Thursday, Feb. 2.
Four Lapel players scored during the run, which began with the Bulldogs trailing 44-39 after a 3-point basket by Guerin’s Matthew Godfrey. A free throw by Hudson and a layup by Jon Ross Richardson pulled the Bulldogs to within two.
After a pair of free throws by Jack Hanson for the Golden Eagles, Jon Ross Richardson buried a 3-pointer of his own, and Lapel trailed by one at 46-45, setting the stage for the heroics by Jones.
Two possessions later, Guerin (12-7) inbounded the ball to Hanson with 1:20 left. As the 6-foot-7 Hanson surveyed the court, Jones took the ball out of his hands and drove to the basket for his only two points of the game, giving the Bulldogs the lead at 47-46.
Jones, a defensive specialist who is listed at 5-foot-11, was not intimidated by the height difference — it just motivated him more.
“It got me fired up because he has the height difference on me,” Jones said. “I thought he was just going to keep it away from me, but he just put it in my hands. I thought he (Hanson) was coming at me from behind, so I just took it up strong.”
Jon Ross Richardson followed with a driving layup, and junior Preston Scott added a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left to preserve a victory Howell said was important.
“That’s a big win,” Howell said. “That’s the signature win we’ve been looking for all year. They (Guerin) are good, they’re a good team. They’re as big a team as we’ll play.”
The size advantage for Guerin translated into a 35-20 rebounding edge for the Golden Eagles. But Lapel (11-7) turned the ball over just seven times, four in the first quarter, as the Bulldogs were able to overcome the rebounding disadvantage.
“We got outrebounded by 15 or 16,” Howell said. “It’s hard to win like that. But they played with poise and didn’t force the issue. I was pretty proud of them tonight, win or lose. We’re playing better, the last three or four games.”
The win came on a night that Jon Ross Richardson struggled with his shot, making just six of 17 overall, but four for nine from 3-point range in leading the team with 16 points. But, Hudson helped pick up the scoring slack, with 10 of his 11 points in the first half, and sophomore Luke Richardson scored 12. Howell said this was a complete team win.
“Luke is playing a lot better,” he said. “He’s playing really well. I know he wants to start, but he’s giving us 14 points a game off the bench. Will made some big defensive plays in the fourth quarter; Josiah shot it really well in the first half; Jon Ross was his steady self; Preston hit some big buckets and big free throws. We had big contributions from everybody.”
Lapel has now won two in a row and three of its past four in what has been an up and down season. Jones said this win is an indicator of things to come.
“This is huge,” he said. “It’s going to be a confidence booster. Now we’ll start rolling, I feel. This will get the team camaraderie up, and we’ll play like we used to.”
In Thursday’s JV game, the Bulldogs fell to Guerin 44-34. Alexander led the Bulldogs with 14 points and five rebounds, Huber dished out four assists and Carpenter had five blocked shots.