Rob Hunt: Recipe for Déjà vu
Mar. 9—With one deep postseason run completed and the potential for another well underway, it is hard not to notice some striking similarities between what the Lapel girls team and the Liberty Christian boys teams have in common.
And I don't just mean both schools start with the same initial and their mascots are tough animals with sharp teeth.
We can start with some strong senior leadership.
Where the Bulldogs had three senior starters — Deannaya Haseman, Jaylee Hubble and Kerith Renihan — the Lions go one better with four.
Like Lapel, Liberty has the backcourt with Eric and Ethan Troutman — comparable to Hubble and Renihan — as well as its own jack-of-all-trades in Cedric Anderson, similar to what Haseman did for the Bulldogs. With its fourth senior, 6-foot-8 swingman Kobe Watson, that's a lot of experience on the floor at the opening tip. I believe that senior leadership was huge for the Bulldogs and can be for the Lions as well.
While LC may not have a freshman star like Lapel's Laniah Wills, it certainly has a dangerous underclassman who starts, and that is junior Devon Kelley. The numbers say he is the team's fifth-leading scorer, but he had a huge game in the sectional championship win over Daleville and — like Lapel junior Maddy Poynter — is more than capable of scoring big inside and outside.
Every team I've ever seen experience postseason success requires depth, and these two are no exception.
Lapel benefitted greatly from the play of juniors Rosemary Likens and AnnaLee Stow off the bench. Neither stuffed the stat sheet. They just made good basketball plays. They made winning plays.
LC has a pair of seniors who operate in a similar fashion in Jayden Wooten and Tae'Shaun Menifield. The duo combines to only average about 3 points per game, but they spell the starters, make few mistakes and take care of the ball. They are the kind of players most fans do not even notice, but coaches sure do. With junior Jerammie Johnson also coming off the bench, the Lions have plenty of depth for this time of year.
Also, neither team entered the postseason ranked in polls conducted by the AP for the boys or the coaches for the girls, but both are ranked highly in the computers. Part of that is because Lapel and Liberty played tough schedules this season with no consideration given to their won-loss records.
For both, 2022-23 has been all about the postseason. Lose some regular season games but be ready for the tournament.
And then there are the architects of the teams, the head coaches.
Both are new to being head coaches — Zach Newby has coached Lapel for five years, and Norm Anderson is in his first season at Liberty — but neither is a novice. Newby and Anderson have been assistants in the area for years and know what they are doing.
The overwhelming similarity between the two is simple.
Try and get them to talk about themselves. I dare you.
I triple-dawg dare you. Or triple-lion dare you, if you prefer.
Most any attempt is met with a response about their support group, their families and their administration. Both Newby and Anderson inevitably turn the conversation back to the kids — their players — and accept very little credit for themselves, even though both deserve a considerable amount.
And that coaching commonality filters down to the players for both teams, which leads to one last shared trait.
It may be the most important of them all.
It is the selflessness that runs through the players, an intangible asset that cannot be measured in any scorebook. None of the players on these two teams give a darn about who gets the credit or who is the leading scorer. A phrase I heard often when travelling with Lapel over the past month was, "I've got her back."
I hear similar words from the Lions as they gear up for their own trip to regional at Frankfort on Saturday.
Whether their tournament goes as far as Lapel's did remains to be seen, but they have the right attitude and all the ingredients for the same type of result.
It all adds up to a winning dish.
Contact Rob Hunt at email@example.com or 765-640-4886.