Offense of Wills, defense of Renihan lifts Lapel to 2A final four
Feb. 18—LOGANSPORT — At times, Lapel has dominated its girls basketball opponents offensively, and at other times it has done so on the defensive end.
With a talented freshman in the middle and an experienced point guard controlling the perimeter, the Bulldogs were dominant on both ends Saturday morning and will play for a championship trophy for the third Saturday in a row.
Laniah Wills controlled the paint with 24 points and 15 rebounds, and senior Kerith Renihan scored 12 points, locked down the top scorer for the opponent and sealed the game with a near-perfect free throw performance as the Bulldogs topped fourth-ranked Andrean 44-32 in the semistate semifinals at the Berry Bowl.
The Bulldogs will face third-ranked Central Noble (26-2) at 8 p.m. with the winner advancing to next week's Class 2A state championship game in Indianapolis. The Cougars held off Lafayette Central Catholic 43-42 in the second semifinal.
Lapel (21-7) never trailed, although it took nearly the entirety of the first quarter before either team made a field goal. That first made basket came courtesy of Wills, who added another just before the end of the quarter for a 5-2 Bulldogs lead and helped settle down any big-game nerves.
"I think the energy started showing up, and we started making threes," Wills said.
The Bulldogs got some second-quarter separation thanks to three straight 3-point baskets and a 10-0 run.
Lauren Colon scored for Andrean (25-4) to open the second period and trim the Lapel lead to one point. But senior Jaylee Hubble took a pass from Renihan and knocked down a 3-pointer for an 8-4 lead. After Wills made one of two at the free throw line, it was Hubble who found Renihan for the 3-pointer before the two switched roles again for another Hubble bomb, and Lapel had its first double-digit lead at 15-4.
Three times, the 59ers pulled with six points during the second quarter, but a Wills basket on one of Renihan's game-high four assists at the buzzer sent the Bulldogs to the locker room with a 21-13 lead.
More importantly than what Renihan did offensively, she was charged with defending Andrean senior and DePauw commit Tori Allen, who entered the game averaging 17 points. With Renihan shadowing her every move, Allen was held to just two points.
"(Wills is) super hard to guard, and we knew we had an advantage, especially in this game," Lapel coach Zach Newby said. "We always do because she's really good, but we didn't think their bigs could guard her."
Lapel scored just eight points in the third quarter, but held the 59ers to seven points, the same number Wills scored by herself.
She opened the period with a rebound basket — one of her three offensive rebounds — and hammered away at the interior, scoring on passes from Renihan and Rosemary Likens. The latter beat the buzzer again for a 29-20 Lapel advantage.
Wills has averaged a double-double this season, so her dominance is nothing new. But Saturday morning, it seemed she was looking to take over the game, rather than let the game come to her.
Either way, the approach during her debut season continues to be highly effective.
"She's such a good finisher," Newby said. "She was finishing in a bunch of different ways. When she's getting bumped, if she's under the basket, she can get herself in position."
The fourth quarter belonged to Wills and Renihan.
Deannaya Haseman found Wills for a tough interior basket before she and Renihan each made a pair of free throws to give Lapel its biggest lead at 35-22.
With 5:24 left, Allen followed with a 3-point basket — the first for the 44% 3-point shooter — and Colon followed with a score in the lane.
That 5-0 run was the longest streak the 59ers could muster all morning.
Wills followed with a rebound basket, and Renihan salted the game away with eight free throws in the fourth quarter.
"This is the year. We can't stop now," Wills said.
Newby credited limiting Allen to six points — four coming well after the Bulldogs were in control — as the key to advancement.
"Kerith is that (dominant) on (defense)," he said. "Laniah dominates for us offensively. Kerith does that for us defensively. (Allen) comes in averaging 17 a game, and she had six, and four of those ... it was done by that point. To hold her to two points in the first half, we put a lot of confidence in Kerith to control her. ... I can't ask for anything more than that.
"When you can guard people, you can win games."
Colon led the 59ers with 12 points, and Madison Walton had six rebounds. Andrean shot just 32% (14-of-43) from the floor overall and was just 3-for-14 from 3-point range.
Hubble finished with six points for the Bulldogs, and Maddy Poynter — whose only point was the game's first tally — grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots.
Contact Rob Hunt at email@example.com or 765-640-4886.