By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
---- — LAPEL — The Lapel Bulldogs got strong performances by some young players and a game-high 16 points from junior Kirsten Rich to win their season-opening girls basketball game Friday.
Lapel stopped Cambridge City 53-43 as the Bulldogs outscored the Eagles 18-10 in the third quarter and then protected the lead at the free throw line down the stretch.
Mackenzie Boles and Kaitlin Dobbins each managed to pick up three fouls in the first half and that limited their minutes in the second half. But sophomore Mary-Jewel Stohler as well as freshmen Samantha Kern and Mallory Willis.
Stohler and Kern each had the battle the size of Cambridge City pivot Jordan Bryant. Bryant finished with a double-double with 10 points and a dozen rebounds, but without the attention of the Bulldogs inside, those figures could have been much higher.
Kern hit 3-of-4 from the field and all three of her free throws for nine points. Stohler hit both of her shots and added two more free throws for six points. Each had four rebounds, so the combination really offset Bryant's production.
Then there's Willis, who was pressed into duty in the fourth quarter when starting guard Natalia Campbell injured her ankle. All she did was hit 5-of-6 free throws when the Eagles were intentionally sending the Bulldogs to the foul line.
"We had our young kids play very well for us," said Lapel coach Kevin Brattain. "Mallory Willis hit some big free throws for us to help us keep the lead."
Of course, the player who helped them get the lead and protect it more than any other single player was Rich. She hit 4-of-7 from the field, two of those from 3-point range, and 6-of-10 from the foul line for a game-high 16 points. She also topped her team with eight rebounds.
Boles still managed eight points and six rebounds.
Lapel had six turnovers in the first quarter, but then had just five for the remainder of the contest.
"We did some nice things tonight," said Brattain. "We got our legs under us."
The Bulldogs will play next on Wednesday at home against Alexandria.