‘They’re still champions’


Bulldogs’ historic season ends in heartbreaking fashion at state final

By Brady Extin | The Times-Post

INDIANAPOLIS — One basket. That’s all that separated Lapel girls basketball from its first state title in school history.
An already-historic season for the Bulldogs came to an end on Saturday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse with a heartbreaking 38-37 loss to Forest Park in the Class 2A State Championship.
Amber Tretter, a Miami Ohio commit, scored the game-winning layup with 6.9 seconds left to secure the Rangers their second straight state title over a Frankton-Lapel Community School Corp. school. They defeated Frankton 52-44 a season ago.
“I knew we would have a shot to win, and we were winning. When you’ve got a 6’1” Division 1 girl, and they’re in the bonus, there’s just no way to guard that,” Lapel head coach Zach Newby said. “We knew they were going to try and go high-low, we knew they were going to try and front at the start, but she’s just a load in there. There’s a reason she’s going where she’s going, and done what she’s done two years in a row. Maybe if we were at three or four team fouls it would have played out a bit differently, but that’s where we were in the game.”

Story continues below photos.

The Bulldogs capped off their season with a 22-8 record, and won Madison County, sectional, regional and semistate titles. The semistate title was the first in school history.
“They’re still champions. They may not be state champions, but they’re Madison County champions, sectional champions, regional champions, and semistate champions,” Newby said. “They hung five banners this year, and we haven’t hung a banner since 2007. They’re the greatest girls team in Lapel basketball history, there’s no question.”
After three quarters, Forest Park seemed to be on an easy track to another title, but Lapel had different plans.
A 14-2 Forest Park run in the third quarter, and a Lapel scoring draught of nearly four minutes to close out the period, allowed the Rangers to take a 31-23 lead heading into the fourth.
But behind a tough defensive effort, and a lights-out quarter from Maddy Poynter, the Bulldogs fought back.
After a Jaylee Hubble 3-pointer cut the lead to 35-32, it was Poynter reeling off the next five Lapel points.
Two free throws made things 36-34, and with 17.6 seconds remaining, senior Kerith Renihan found the junior for a deep, contested 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs their first lead since early in the third quarter.
After the Tretter basket gave Forest Park back the lead, Poynter fired up one last long ball off of a broken play intended for senior Deannaya Haseman, and just missed the shot off the back of the rim.
“I knew they were going to come at me because they didn’t want me to shoot it,” Haseman said. “I have full confidence in Maddy, and I have full confidence in all my teammates to make shots when we need them. I thought it was going in. From my perspective, it looked great.”
“I really thought it was going in, but not every shot goes in,” Poynter said.
Poynter led Lapel in scoring and rebounds with 15 points and five boards. Nine of the points, three rebounds and an assist all came in the fourth quarter, and got Lapel back into the game.
“We get that effort and intensity from Maddy every single day. She will put the team on her back. She’s a vocal leader, and she leads with what she does on the floor,” Newby said. “I know she’s down on herself for missing that three, but if she doesn’t make the three at the top of the key, we don’t even have that opportunity, so it doesn’t matter. You’re not going to make every single shot that you take. There are a lot more plays in that game that are more important than her missing that three at the end.”
The final play was drawn up for Haseman, and without any timeouts left, the Bulldogs had to improvise when she was covered.
“They did a good job of getting themselves into something. I didn’t have any timeouts, so I couldn’t draw something up. I knew they were going to double Laniah (Wills), so I couldn’t just say throw it down to her,” Newby said. “We only had three seconds, and we wanted to try to get a shot up quick to give ourselves an opportunity at an offensive rebound, but it looked good out of her hands. She was a little bit deeper than I think she thought she was. With the two three-point lines, it makes it a little difficult for kids because we haven’t done that all year.”
While Poynter led the Bulldogs, it was the Forest Park senior — Tretter — who gave Lapel issues defensively.
The Bulldogs’ leading scorer and rebounder — and one of the biggest reasons why the team was able to get to the spot it was in — Wills, was outmatched for one of the first times all tournament.
Against the freshman, Tretter scored 13 points and added 10 rebounds, three blocks and three assists for the Rangers. In the first half, she scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds, with seven coming on the offensive end.
Wills finished the game with eight points and three rebounds.
“For Laniah, it’s a great learning experience. She’s definitely on that level talent-wise, but you can see there’s a big difference between an 18-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl,” Newby said. “Laniah is going to learn from this, and understand the physicality of what a Division 1 player looks like, and I don’t think anybody in the state is going to want to play against her for the next three years.”
Led by the rebounding display of Tretter, the Bulldogs were outrebounded 25-16 after three quarters, and had allowed 11 offensive boards. The ability to eliminate that in the fourth quarter was another reason the Bulldogs were able to climb back.
“We talked in practice about how you’ve got to get a body on her and make sure that you keep them off the board,” Newby said. “There’s just no way with JV players in practice to simulate that. You’re not going to be able to take a JV player and turn her into a Division 1 player and say, ‘Hey, we need you to help prepare.’”
Five Bulldogs found the basket. Along with Poynter’s 15 and Wills’ 8, Hubble knocked down a trio of 3-pointers, Haseman scored three, and Annalee Stow added a basket.
Renihan led the Bulldogs with seven assists and caused fits defensively all game long.
“They play for each other. They don’t care who gets the credit or who scores the most points. They’re not worried about me; every one of those kids is looking out for each other, and that’s part of our community,” Newby said. “I told them before the game that the result doesn’t matter. Nobody in the stands is going to be any more or less proud of you if you win or lose. They’re all here for you, and to support you. It just shows by them sticking around and cheering for us, and cheering for us back in the town. It’s more about that than winning this game.”
While it wasn’t the ending Lapel was hoping for, the Bulldogs can still hang their hats on the multiple championships they won, and the banners they hung while putting together the best season in school history.
“At the start of the season, college coaches would ask me if I thought we were going to go to state, and I would always tell them that I really thought we would. We had the freshman Laniah coming up, and we still had our point guard and two shooters,” Poynter said. “I thought we had a solid team, and I knew that this year was going to be our year, and here we were.”

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