The Herald Bulletin

March 10, 2014

Last year's loss continues to fuel Lions

By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Reminders are everywhere.

On a summer trip to a shopping mall in Indianapolis, Jason Chapell caught sight of a Lafayette Central Catholic basketball player. The boy was wearing his letterman jacket, and on the back was a patch celebrating the Knights' 2013 Class 1A regional championship.

Just like that, the memories came rushing back.

Chappell, the boys basketball coach and athletic director at Liberty Christian, still hasn't let go of the day last March when his Lions squandered a fourth-quarter lead against Lafayette Central Catholic and dropped a 77-68 decision in the regional championship game.

"That game against LCC last year broke my heart," Chappell said, "and I know it broke the kids' hearts, too."

The 10th-ranked Lions (18-6) used the memories to fuel a third straight trip to the regional round this spring and will face Seton Catholic (15-7) in the semifinals Saturday at Frankfort. On the other side of the bracket, No. 7 Lafayette Central Catholic (15-8) battles Rossville (16-8).

A win in the morning session would send the Lions to the regional final for the third straight year, and the team has more than revenge on its mind.

"Everything we have done this year, we don't coach game-to-game during the season," Chappell said. "We coach toward a common goal at the end of the year, and that common goal is Bankers Life Fieldhouse. To get to that goal, we have to look at ourselves and focus on ourselves.

"The only thing we're really worried about is playing to the best of our abilities and using our God-given talent to the best of our abilities."

That approach worked well over the weekend when host Monroe Central sprinted to a 14-point lead in the second quarter of the sectional championship game. The Lions didn't panic, instead going to work to whittle down the deficit.

They had the lead by the end of the third quarter and won the game going away 64-52.

"Monroe Central gave us all we could handle," Chappell said. "It was really cool to see our kids — Monroe Central was hot, they were on fire — but our kids showed a lot of poise. They stayed composed, they stuck to our game plan and they came through."

The win was the 100th for the head coach in 10 seasons at the school. But he was quick to shrug off the accomplishment, saying it's the result of a lot of hard work by his assistants and the players over the past decade.

He prefers to focus on the sectional championship trophy the Lions hoisted into the air for the third consecutive season. Prior to the start of the current run, Liberty Christian never had won a postseason championship in franchise history.

So this team isn't about to take anything for granted.

"I just feel blessed," Chappell said. "I just feel very fortunate to be in this situation with these kids. I love coaching them and serving them every day. It's a wonderful group of kids."

The Lions have approached every game this postseason as though a championship was on the line, and they will look at Saturday's regional semifinal the same way.

There are a number of storylines that could play out with another Liberty Christian victory, but a loss will put an end to them all.

It's not a fear of failure that drives these Lions, however. It's the will to stay together as a team.

"We plan on playing until the IHSAA tells us we can't play no more," Chappell said. "Hopefully, that comes after a win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse."