By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Lapel boys basketball coach Jimmie Howell has 513 career victories, and Anderson is the defending Madison County tournament champion.
Still, few would have predicted the Bulldogs (6-3) and Indians (5-5) would meet for the 2014 title. But that will be the championship game matchup tonight at the Tepee, with each team coming off an upset of a rival.
Lapel's shocker came in Saturday's semifinals on a last-second basket for a 54-53 victory against Class 2A No. 2 Frankton. Anderson stunned Pendleton Heights 61-48 in Friday's opening round then roared past Liberty Christian 64-50 in the semifinals.
Now the Tribe will make its fifth straight title game appearance and chase its third title since 2008.
"We've played in some big games already," Anderson coach Joe Nadaline said. "The Pendleton atmosphere was a championship-type atmosphere Friday night, as was the Lapel-Frankton atmosphere Saturday night. Both teams have played in it, and it should be a fun game Monday night."
The teams met in the season-opener Nov. 26 at Lapel, with the Indians pulling out a 54-47 victory. But both coaches said that contest will have little impact tonight.
Neither team played particularly well in the first matchup, with just five or six practices under their belt. This time around, they'll each be playing for the third time in four nights.
"Both teams are better, both teams are a lot better," Howell said. "(Anderson sophomore) Kobe Clay, he's made big strides. He's going to be difficult for us to stop inside. They've gotten better on the perimeter. They've gotten deeper. They've certainly improved, and I hope we have, too."
Clay had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the semifinal victory against Liberty Christian. But senior guard Kenya Wilkerson led the team with 15 points and added 10 boards.
On Friday against Pendleton Heights, Grant Bennett led the Tribe with 20 points. And junior guard FreSan Reese ran the offense effectively in both games and protected the basketball.
Lapel, meanwhile, enters the contest with three straight victories. The Bulldogs' upset of Frankton was the team's second win against a ranked team this year, joining a Dec. 13 decision against Indiana Crossroads Conference rival Scecina.
Kameron Herrington scored the game-winner at the buzzer against Frankton and finished with a team-high 14 points. Sharpshooter Mitchell Richardson added 12 for the Bulldogs, who like Anderson do not rely on a single dominant player each night.
That should only add to the unpredictability on the title tilt.
"It's going to be a fun game," Nadaline said. "I'm looking forward to it. Coach Howell is a great coach, and it's always fun to play against him."
The boys championship game is the headliner for a busy night of county basketball action.
Liberty Christian (6-3) will play Frankton (9-1) in the third-place game at the Tepee at 6 p.m. with the title matchup to follow. Alexandria (3-7) faces Anderson Prep (0-8) in the seventh-place game at Pendleton Heights at 6 p.m., and the host Arabians (6-3) will meet Elwood (4-5) for fifth place shortly after.
The girls tournament will play its semifinal round at Elwood.
Anderson (8-3), in the midst of five games in a seven-day stretch, will play Alexandria (3-8) at 6 p.m., and the host Panthers (8-4) face Class 2A No. 3 Lapel (10-1) shortly after. The Bulldogs had a first-round bye and haven't played since dominating University 77-15 on Dec. 28.
Pendleton Heights (9-4) will play Liberty Christian (3-5) in a consolation game at 6 p.m. in the Elwood Middle School gym. The loser will finish in seventh place, and the winner will meet Frankton for fifth place on Tuesday.
The girls championship game is scheduled to start around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Elwood, with the third-place game to start at 6 p.m.
Today's Schedule Madison County tourney Boys at Anderson Third place: Liberty Christian vs. Frankton, 6 p.m. Championship: Anderson vs. Lapel, 7:30 p.m. at Pendleton Heights Seventh place: Alexandria vs. Anderson Prep, 6 p.m. Fifth place: Pendleton Heights vs. Elwood, 7:30 p.m. Girls at Elwood Semifinal: Anderson vs. Alexandria, 6 p.m. (main gym) Consolation: Pendleton Heights vs. Liberty Christian, 6 p.m. (middle school gym) Semifinal: Elwood vs. Lapel, 7:30 p.m. (main gym)