BYE, BYE: Pendleton Heights, Lapel will await foes in sectional semis

Lapel head coach Justin Coomer watches the action against Eastern Hancock on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

SOUTH MADISON COUNTY — For the first part of boys basketball sectional week, Lapel and Pendleton Heights will be interested observers.

In their respective seven-team sectionals, both the Bulldogs and Arabians received byes in the postseason tournament.

Indiana High School Athletic Association announced pairings for its 111th boys basketball state tournament on Sunday.

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Lapel (7-13) is slated to play on Friday, March 5, in Class 2A Sectional 40 at Elwood, against the winner of a Tuesday, March 2, quarterfinal matchup between Winchester (15-6) and defending tournament champion Wapahani (15-6).

“It’s a good thing. You’re in the Final 4 of the sectional,” Lapel coach Justin Coomer said of receiving the bye. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted the bye or not. We have a young team with not a lot of sectional experience. There’s no easy draw in our sectional, but we’ll take (the bye).”

In the bottom half of the bracket, in games to be played Wednesday, March 3, Monroe Central (12-7) takes on Frankton (12-9) and Alexandria (5-15) plays Elwood (2-19). Wednesday’s winners play in the second Friday semifinal.

The championship game is scheduled for Saturday, March 6.

Pendleton Heights (7-13) will be watching closely the Tuesday, March 2, game in Class 4A Sectional 9 at Richmond between Muncie Central (0-17) and Anderson (9-9). The Arabians will play the winner in the first of two semifinal games on Friday, March 6.

“It’s always one of those things where you have to be careful what you wish for,” Pendleton Heights coach Adam Ballard said on receiving the tournament bye.

He said he’s coached teams that have had byes before, as well as those that have taken a longer route to the tournament championship. He added that his teams have had successes and failures with both scenarios.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘You’ve got a great draw,’ but I don’t know what that means,” Ballard said. “I think Anderson is a very good team and Muncie Central is a much, much better team than their record.

“All I know is we’re really excited to get to play in the sectional tournament and have a chance to win it.”

On Wednesday, March 3, Mt. Vernon (13-6) takes on Richmond (8-9) and New Palestine (14-7) faces Greenfield-Central (13-8). New Palestine has won the sectional the last two years.

Friday’s winners will play in the title game scheduled for Saturday, March 6.

At Elwood, Lapel has a 3-2 record against teams in the tournament, including a 60-59 win versus Wapahani back on Dec. 11. It also has wins against Elwood and Alexandria. Losses have come to Monroe Central and Frankton. The Bulldogs have not played Winchester.

Lapel has lost four straight, but Coomer has seen progress, most recently in the last two contests.

The Bulldogs played 18-3 Madison-Grant down to the wire in a 61-60 loss and were in the game late in a 53-45 loss to Class 4A Anderson.

“I think we’re playing some of our best basketball right now,” Coomer said. “The win-loss record doesn’t reflect it.

“We played (Madison-Grant and Anderson) pretty tough. We were in both games down to the wire. A play or two here or there we might have won both games. We’re close. We just need to get over the hump and close out a game, but we’re playing pretty well right now.”

Lapel finishes regular season play this week with the final home game, which was scheduled to be played on Tuesday, against New Castle and a trip to Tipton on Thursday, Feb. 25.

At Richmond, Pendleton Heights owns a 1-5 record against possible tourney foes, with the one win coming on Feb. 9, a 55-53 homecourt victory versus Muncie Central. The Arabians lost a 59-56 decision to Anderson on Feb. 13. A loss to Greenfield-Central was also by a slim three-point difference, 66-63.

The Arabians had won three of their last four games until, what coach Ballard called a setback in the team’s progress, an 84-47 loss to Class 2A powerhouse Shenandoah.

“We had been getting close to playing our best basketball,” Ballard said of his team’s play prior to the Shenandoah game, a contest that the Arabians played without starter Luke Candiano.

“One thing about our team is our kids bounce back,” Ballard said. “They do a great job of coming back and trying to get better the next day. They came back and had a really good practice (on Saturday after Friday’s loss to Shenadoah). We’re still on a good path, but there are things we have to look at and shore up before we get into (the tournament). I like our team and I like where we’re at.”

The Arabians wrap up the regular season this week, scheduled to play Eastern Hancock, at home, on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The regular season finale is scheduled for today (Thursday, Feb. 25), also at home, against Yorktown.

Tip-off times for tournament games have not been announced.