LAPEL — With a team made up primarily of newcomers to varsity competition, practice is of the essence for the Lapel boys basketball team.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they’re battling COVID-19 restrictions and, after just three practices (Nov. 9-11) they have had to shut down because of illness and contact tracing quarantine.

Only 6-5 senior Caden Eicks, 6-2 junior Corbin Renihan and 6-0 junior Landon Bair saw significant time on last year’s 14-10 team that lost in the first round of the Alexandria Sectional to eventual tournament champion Wapahani.

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This year’s team will be getting off to a late start. The scrimmage slated for tonight (Thursday, Nov. 19) against University has been canceled. The regular-season opener against Anderson, slated for Friday, Nov. 27, has also been postponed — a makeup date has not yet been determined — along with the Nov. 28 home opener against Frankton and a Dec. 2 scheduled game at Elwood. The game against the rival Eagles has been rescheduled for Dec. 29. Lapel will visit Elwood on Jan. 25.

The new opener is now Dec. 4, at home, against Pendleton Heights.

The team is scheduled to return to the practice floor on Nov. 23.

With this kind of coaching dilemma, it’s good the Bulldogs have a veteran like Jimmie Howell at the helm — though Howell, like the rest in the coaching industry, has never had to deal with leading during a pandemic.

Howell is in his 17th season at his alma mater, Lapel, and 40th overall. He’s won 624 games, ranking fifth-highest among active coaches in the state.

“We’ve got some sickness and contact tracing for about half of our players,” Howell said. “We’ve got three practices in and got halted.

“We’re very inexperienced. We’ve got good players, they just need to get some varsity experience under their belt.”

Howell said his guys played a bit during the summer but weren’t able to play together as a team. Usually, they would have had 20 games together during that time, but the pandemic forced cancellation of team camps they would have participated in.

When they return on Nov. 23, he said he wants to get some of the “individualism” out of them that is often seen in travel-ball games and get his guys back to playing team basketball.

“(In our third practice) our practice was more that way,” he said.

Eicks, Renihan and Bair each played in 21 games last season. Eicks averaged 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. He had a few starts as a junior and had a 15-point, 6-for-6 shooting night in a 67-63 win over Sheridan.

Renihan, who sparked the Bulldogs off the bench in a comeback attempt in last year’s sectional matchup against Wapahani, averaged 3.2 points per contest. He scored a season-high nine in the sectional game.

Bair averaged 1.5 points per game and scored 10 points in a win last year against Muncie Burris.

“Everybody else is basically coming up with the JV team,” Howell said.

Senior Camren Sullivan (13 games), junior Noah Hudson (seven games), junior Griffin Craig (seven games), and junior Chase Landis (two games) all saw limited varsity action in 2019-20.

Howell hopes to get additional help from 6-2 junior Jake Paska, a transfer student from Noblesville, as well as sophomores Brayden Barnett (6-2) and Tyler Dollar (5-9).

Dollar did not play basketball last season. He was a star running back for the Lapel football team in the fall. “He’s quite an athlete,” Howell said of Dollar.

Senior Nathan Miles (5-9) is another first-timer at the varsity level.

Pandemic restrictions have been tough on everyone. The Bulldogs may be getting hit a little harder, when it comes to court time, not having many players that have played in the late game on Friday nights.

“It’s tough because gaining that varsity experience is so important,” Howell said. “And, getting more practices in is very important. We’re going to end up missing nine practices here.”

There’s no doubt Howell can get a team ready; he just doesn’t have as much time as usual.

When the Bulldogs return to the practice floor next week, they’ll still be defining roles, working to get better defensively and gaining experience prior to the season opener against the Madison County rival Arabians.

“We have kids that worked very hard those three days. We have kids that are skilled. It’s a matter of gaining experience,” Howell said. “I think we’ll have a chance to be a lot better at the end of the year than we will be early.

“Most of that is experience and understanding what we can and cannot do.”

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2020-21 Lapel boys basketball schedule


Nov. 27;at Anderson;ppd

Dec. 4;vs. Pendleton Heights;6 p.m.

Dec. 11;vs. Wapahani;6 p.m.

Dec. 12;at Muncie Burris;6 p.m.

Dec. 18;vs. Monroe Central;6 p.m.

Dec. 22;at Guerin Catholic;6 p.m.

Dec. 29;vs. Frankton;6 p.m.

Jan. 4;at APA (County tourney);7:30 p.m.

Jan. 6;Madison County Tourney;TBD

Jan. 8;Madison County Tourney;TBD

Jan. 15;vs. Hamilton Heights;6 p.m.

Jan. 16;vs. Greenfield-Central;6 p.m.

Jan. 23;at Daleville;7:30 p.m.

Jan. 25;at Elwood;6 p.m.

Jan. 29;at Eastern Hancock;6 p.m.

Jan. 30;vs. Oak Hill;6 p.m.

Feb. 4;at Alexandria;6 p.m.

Feb. 9;vs. Heritage Christian;6 p.m.

Feb. 12;at Shenandoah;6 p.m.

Feb. 16;vs. Sheridan;6 p.m.

Feb. 19;at Madison-Grant;6 p.m.

Feb. 23;vs. New Castle;6 p.m.

Feb. 25;at Tipton;6 p.m.

Mar. 2-6;Sectional;TBD

Mar. 13;Regional;TBD

Mar. 20;Semi-State;TBD

Mar. 27;State Finals;TBD

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2020-21 Lapel boys basketball roster


10;Chase Landis;5-9;11

12;Griffin Craig;5-11;11

14;Camren Sullivan;6-0;12

20;Landon Bair;6-0;11

24;Noah Hudson;6-0;11

30;Tyler Dollar;5-9;10

34;Jake Paska;6-2;11

40;Corbin Renihan;6-2;11

44;Nathan Miles;5-9;12

52;Caden Eicks;6-5;12

54;Brayden Barnett;6-2;10

Head coach: Jimmie Howell