By Brady Extin | The Times-Post
LAPEL — The Lapel boys basketball team entered the weekend playing some of their best basketball of the season.
They entered Friday night’s contest on a four-game win streak and winners of nine of their last 10 games.
They added to that stretch with a pair of wins.
On Friday, the Bulldog defeated Eastern Hancock at home 52-39, and on Saturday went on the road at knocked off Oak Hill 48-28.
“They’ve won nine out of 10, and they play a really tough schedule. We knew they were really good, they were big, and that they had guys that could shoot it and take it to the basket. We figured it would be a physical game,” Eastern Hancock head coach Brett Bechtel said. “We had segments where we competed and looked good, but you can’t have two or three-minute lapses where you’re sloppy. Good teams are going to punish you for that and it’s really going to put you in a hole.”
The Royals got out to a hot start with eight quick points in the opening few minutes of the game to take an early lead.
Kayden Ruble opened the game with a 3-pointer on the Royals opening possession, and later in the quarter, a Luke Morris trey put Eastern ahead 8-4.
“We just let No. 43 (Ruble) sit and get a wide-open look from three, and we had talked all week about how he can hit those. We just lost him on a closeout. They hit another three right after that on a switch that we missed,” Lapel head coach Kevin Cherry said. “I felt like if we could get disciplined in the way we were supposed to be guarding that we would be fine, but when they start making shots they can be a very tough guard. I’m proud of our guys for fighting through some foul trouble and adjusting, and being able to be dominant defensively tonight.”
The Bulldogs answered with a 13-2 run to gain control.
Brode Judge matched Morris’ 3-pointer and a Matthew Carpenter layup gave Lapel its first lead of the night, 9-8.
A Charlie Halcomb basket put the Royals back in front momentarily for the final time all night, but four straight Brode Judge points and another Carpenter layup helped the Bulldogs retake and grow their lead.
After the opening eight points, the Lapel defense limited the Eastern Hancock offense to just 11 points the remainder of the half, and with the Eastern offense struggling, the Bulldogs pushed the lead to double-digits.
“Defensively we’ve been really good over the course of these past 10 games. That’s got to be our calling card the rest of the way out if we’re going to try and make a run in the postseason. With the way our sectional is set up, there’s a lot of good teams and a lot of good coaches, so we’re going to have to be able to guard every night,” Cherry said. “Tonight we only scored 52 and were still able to win by 13, so I just thought we were really good on the defensive end.”
Five straight Bode Judge points to open the second quarter made things 22-13, and a few possessions later a Devin Craig 3-pointer pushed the lead to 10.
Down by 10, turnovers by the Eastern Hancock offense allowed the Bulldogs to increase the lead even more early in the third quarter.
Off of a steal, Craig knocked down his second trey of the game to open the third period and gave Lapel a 32-19 lead.
More turnovers later in the quarter by the Royals allowed the lead to get as big as 15. The Royals had five third-quarter giveaways and 14 total on the night.
Led by Ruble, the Royals fought back to make it an eight-point game late in the third quarter.
Two straight baskets by him made things 37-26, and near the end of the period a 3-pointer cut the lead to 39-29 entering the final eight minutes.
But each time Eastern Hancock threatened a comeback, the Bulldogs responded.
A Brode Judge 3-pointer early in the fourth gave the Bulldogs a 13-point lead again, but Caiden Willis answered with a 3-point play for the Royals.
Two minutes later, another Royals basket cut the lead down to 10 again, but free throws by Craig down the stretch closed things out.
“I felt like that was a big part of the game. They got it to eight or 10 points a few times, and we dodged some bullets, too, that were self-inflicted. I thought Brode was really good though when we needed a basket to go and get one for us,” Cherry said. “We were always trying to keep them at arm’s length. They’re a well-coached team and know how to execute, so this was a very nice win for our team.”
Brode Judge scored 15 to lead Lapel. He was followed by Craig with 12 and his brother, Bode, with 11.
Ruble led Eastern Hancock with 11 points, Willis had nine and Charlie Halcomb had six.
In the win over Oak Hill on Saturday, the Judge brothers and Craig each scored in double figures again.
Brode had 14, Bode had 12 and Craig had 10.