By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
Through illness and injury, the Lapel Bulldogs traveled to Bankers Life Fieldhouse and put on a performance of which even the home Indiana Pacers would have been proud.
Lapel knocked conference foe Cardinal Ritter from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 51-43 triumph.
“That was a gutsy win for our kids,” said Lapel coach Kevin Brattain. “We’ve had so much sickness this past week, we thought we might be down three players.”
One of those players, junior Mackenzie Boles, didn’t find out until Saturday that she would be able to play. The Ritter Raiders wish that message would have gotten lost in the translation somewhere.
All Boles did was hit 9 of 15 shots, hit all but one of her seven free throws and grab 12 rebounds on her way to a game-high 25-point showing.
The fatigue hit her early, a product of missing three days of school.
“I think it was after the first quarter,” she said. “I’m really glad I was able to play. I don’t sit very well. Once I woke up this morning, I was ready to play.”
The Bulldogs started the game with a 9-2 run and never trailed. All nine of those points came from Boles.
“I didn’t hit that well in warmup,” said Boles. “But sometimes, when you start the game, it just starts clicking.”
Lapel led 11-4 after one quarter and dominated the early part of the second quarter. Fatigue began to set in and Ritter closed to 17-16 at the break. Right before the end of the half, junior Kaitlin Dobbins began to feel ill. Jessica Huffman, another starter, is out with an illness and may be lost to the team for three or more weeks.
The break at halftime was just what the Bulldogs needed. In the third period Boles hit three shots, one from 3-point range, while Stephanie Pritchett, Dobbins and Kirsten Rich each added a fielder. With just eight minutes left, Lapel had a 32-21 advantage.
Most everyone in the game knew what would happen in the final quarter. Ritter was going to turn up the heat with pressure and try to wear out the game but tiring Bulldogs.
That meant the ball had to go into sophomore Kirsten Rich’s hands. The Pacers’ floor is a bit longer than a regular high school floor and considerably wider.
“I didn’t notice too much difference,” said Rich of playing at Bankers Life. “Once you get out on the floor you are so focused on what you’re doing that it doesn’t matter.”
Lapel had only five miscues in that quarter to keep Ritter from getting closer than six points down the stretch. Rich, who had missed three of her first four free throws, hit eight in a row in the final minutes to preserve the victory. Not only did she take good care of the basketball, but she tied Pritchett for second on the team with 10 rebounds.
“She’s a warrior,” said Brattain of his guard.
Pritchett went down with a knee injury midway through the final quarter and did not return.
“I think we’ve played pretty well all season,” said Rich. “This was a big game for us. We didn’t want to lose it.”
Macie Price topped Ritter with 13 points. Much of the time the Raiders were content to shoot from the perimeter. They launched 28 treys and hit but six. They also only went to the free throw line four times and hit only one.