FRANKTON — As it goes with any bitter rivalry, any time Frankton loses to Lapel, it is difficult to accept.
Saturday’s thriller at the Eagles Nest will be especially so.
Lapel senior Carson Huber scored the final five points, including a pair of controversial free throws to provide the winning margin with less than three seconds remaining as the Bulldogs edged Frankton 59-57.
It was a game that seemed to get away from Frankton early. Then the Eagles took control only to see it slip away at the end.
“We just made too many mistakes down the stretch,” Frankton coach Brent Brobston said. “I thought we really worked extremely hard. Lapel is a great team, and I’m excited about our future this season. It’s just a difficult loss. It’s a tough one. They’ve got an experienced team and made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
Lapel led much of the night, beginning with a Huber 3-point basket for a 14-11 lead in the first quarter. All told, the Bulldogs connected on eight 3-point baskets by halftime, but the Eagles were able to do enough to stay within 36-29 at the break.
But the deep shooting success for Lapel went away in the second half and allowed the Eagles to creep back into the game.
“We’re not going to be a consistent team if we’re going to shoot 30 3s in a game,” Lapel coach Jimmie Howell said.
Twice, on a 3 by Ayden Brobston and a layup by Ethan Bates, the Eagles tied the game in the third quarter. But senior Kolby Bullard drove for a layup to close out the third for Lapel and give the visitors a 46-44 lead.
After sophomore Blake Mills gave Lapel a 49-46 lead with his fourth 3-pointer, the Bulldogs got careless with the ball, and Bates took charge.
A free throw by junior Zack Davenport started a seven-point run by the Eagles. Bates scored the next four points with a pair of free throws and a drive to the basket before junior Luke Sheward connected on a pair at the line.
After the teams exchanged a pair of free throws, Davenport scored and was fouled with 1:11 left. Although he missed the free throw, he staked the Eagles to a 57-51 lead, their largest of the night.
But those were the last points Frankton scored.
Sophomore Corbin Renihan hit a free throw and, after his second missed, senior Bryce Carpenter stole the ball and was fouled. He hit both freebies to pull Lapel within 57-54.
After an offensive foul was called on Frankton, its sixth turnover of the fourth quarter, Huber calmly drilled a game-tying 3-point basket, his fifth trey of the night.
Controversy arose in the closing seconds when, after three players scrambled for a loose ball near mid-court, Frankton’s Ryan Smith was called for a foul, sending Huber to the foul line with just 2.4 seconds remaining.
He made both to put Lapel back on top to stay. Bates got a look at a game winning 3-point shot, but it did not fall.
“We outplayed them for a minute-eleven,” Howell said. “I’ve coached a lot of games like that where you should win, but you don’t and others where you don’t play well, but you win. That’s the way it was tonight. Frankton, they outplayed us, outcoached us, out everything us tonight.”
With the win, Howell tied his former coach at Lapel, Dallas Hunter, for all-time wins at the school with 250. Hunter coached the Bulldogs from 1968-1988.
“He was a great mentor to me,” Howell said. “He and my dad are the ones I’ve tried to emulate my whole career. He had some amazing teams, and I wish we’d had class sports back then.”
Coach Brobston will use this loss as a teaching moment for his young team that has Bates as the lone senior.
“If there’s any type of victory here, it’s a learning experience,” Brobston said. “Lapel is one of the more experienced teams we’re going to play and is one of the top teams on our schedule. They’re extremely well coached. Right now, it hurts for our guys because they felt like they had it won, and it slipped away.”
Huber finished with 21 points, and Mills had 17 for Lapel (2-0) while Bates led all players with 25 for Frankton (1-1). Brobston recorded his second double-double in as many games with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Zack Davenport added 10 points and seven assists.
The Bulldogs routed the Eagles in the junior varsity game by a 66-38 score behind 22 points from junior Camren Sullivan. The Eagles were led by sophomore Eli Manies with 10 points.