LAPEL – There have been two constants during Anderson’s now three straight Madison County Girls Basketball championships.
One is the reigning area player of the year, junior Tyra Ford.
The other is that, when the Madison County tournament lights come on, senior guard Erin Martin comes alive.
Ford poured in 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Martin scored 17, including big shots early in the game, as the Indians held off a tough late comeback by Lapel for a 56-50 win Saturday night.
This marks the first time Anderson (9-8) has won three straight county titles. They are the first school to accomplish the feat since Pendleton Heights did from 2009-11. The Arabians also won three straight from 2004-2006.
“I’m going to be honest with you, this is kind of bittersweet,” Anderson coach Shannon Cleckley said. “We have a hard schedule, we play tough teams, and to come in here and represent the county in a tough game, Lapel really brought their A game, but it’s really nice. The girls are believing in what we tell them. They go out there and execute and they battled adversity in the game and didn’t let it fall apart.”
Anderson never trailed in the game and there was only one tie, at 3-3 early. On three different occasions, the Indians built 11-point cushions.
But at no point did Lapel give up.
“We didn’t play great, but we played well enough to win,” Lapel coach Zach Newby said. “We just didn’t.”
With the defense of Lapel (13-4) keyed on Ford, Anderson needed others to step up and there is no one on this team better suited for that job than Martin. In county tournament games the last three seasons, she is averaging 14 points per game. She averages just under eight points per game this season.
“I just really want win this,” Martin said. “I love county, it’s my favorite time of the year. I want to play my hardest.”
Ford scored eight of Anderson’s first 10 points as the Tribe jumped out to a 10-3 lead. But she did not score another field goal in the first half. But Martin hit a pair of 18-foot jumpers before connecting from beyond the three-point line to extend the Anderson lead to 27-19 late in the second quarter before the Indians took a 31-22 advantage into the locker room.
The contributions of both Martin and senior Karlee Goodwin, who chipped in 12 points, were big for Cleckley and the Indians.
“We knew we had to have them all in double figures,” Cleckley said. “We knew we had to have them lead on the floor, they did that.”
A Ford rebound basket and a free throw by freshman Zoe Allen to end the third quarter gave Anderson its final double digit lead at 43-32.
The Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter on an 11-3 run, capped by a Makynlee Taylor layup, to pull within 46-43. Twice in the closing moments, Lapel had the ball and a chance to tie or take the lead, but could not take advantage.
“We moved the ball decent, but not well enough,” Newby said. “Against a team like that, you have to turn it into a half-court game.”
In the end, Cleckley said it was a matter of each player on his team doing her job.
“That’s a team concept, and that’s what we’re trying to teach here at Anderson High School,” Cleckley said.
Delany Peoples led Lapel with 14 points and had seven rebounds while Taylor added 13 points and nine rebounds.