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Tigers defeat Lapel for fifth straight victory

By DAN HARNEY - For The Courier-Times

HAGERSTOWN —The Hagerstown High School boys basketball team, winners of four straight and co-leaders in the Tri-Eastern Conference, moved out of conference play Saturday night to host the Lapel Bulldogs.

The host Tigers proved that they could from from behind and win against a good team, as they outscored Lapel 35-21 in the second half to rally and defeat the Bulldogs 59-54 to record their fifth straight victory.

One could make a case that the Bulldogs are one of the best teams the Tigers have faced. There is no question that Jimmie Howell, the Lapel head coach who is scheduled for induction next month into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, has the most impressive credentials of any coach the Tigers have faced.

With two state titles and nearly 600 wins to his credit, Howell is among the state’s elite coaches. With a roster that included at least six players taller than any Tiger, including 6-5 junior phenom Luke Richardson and his 20-point average, it was a tall order.

There is a fundamental truth in basketball. If you want to win, you must hit the basket. The Tigers struggled to do that early while the Bulldogs had no such problem. Richardson introduced himself to the Tigers with a 14-point first quarter and the Bulldogs closed the first quarter on an 8-0 run to race to a 23-16 lead after one period.

Cody Swimm with 11 points and Jalen Oliver with five kept Hagerstown in the game. No other Tiger could hit anything from anywhere.

Lapel added to its lead in the second period. Oliver and Preston Scott traded baskets to open the period before the Bulldogs went on another scoring spree. This time it was a 9-2 run that put the Tigers in a 14-point hole, trailing 34-20 with 1:28 before halftime.

It did not seem like much at the time, but Brady McMillan and Swimm scored back-to-back off turnovers to cut the halftime deficit to 10 points at 34-24.

Lapel Coach Howell called it a turning point in postgame remarks. “We were up 14 and they get a steal and get a lay-up and then they get another steal and lay-up,” Howell said. “We went from up 14 to up 10. That was a big, big factor.”

Tiger Head Coach Bobby Jones said that with his team’s quickness he thought they could press Lapel, but he wanted to get a lead first. Unfortunately, he never had that luxury.

“Truth be told, we probably should have pressed in the first half,” Jones said in postgame remarks. “But that’s Hagerstown’s coach for you. I wanted to get a lead first and that never happened.”

The Tigers came out in the second half applying pressure defensively. After falling behind by 13 points on a Caleb Bloom three-pointer, the Tigers started to create turnovers and chip away at the deficit. Hagerstown shots started to fall with five Tigers finding the scoring column. The hosts made up the halftime deficit and the two teams went to the fourth quarter deadlocked at 42-42.

Carson Huber opened the scoring in the final period with a three-pointer to restore the lead to Lapel. Twenty seconds later Noah Dale tied the game with a three-pointer of his own. Oliver gave the Hagerstown its first lead since early in the first quarter with a free throw.

On the next Tiger possession, Oliver scored on a rebound basket to push the Hagerstown lead to 48-45. Richardson answered with a conventional three-point play to knot the game at 48-48 with 6:11 remaining.

Oliver again scored to give the Tigers a lead at 50-48. Richardson tied it seconds later with free throws. Drew Pyle electrified the large crowd with a rebound dunk to give the hosts a 52-50 lead. Preston Scott tied the game for the last time with 1:26 remaining at 52-52.

The Tigers worked the ball until they found a seam in the Lapel defense and Dale hit a three pointer to send the Tigers in front 55-52 with one-minute remaining, Richardson scored on a rebound basket at the 37-second mark to cut the Tiger lead to one, but the Bulldogs were forced to foul, and Hagerstown made them pay.

Trent Weiss hit 4-for-4 to extend the lead to the final score of 59-54.

Coach Howell said that the Tiger defense was key. “They switched defenses on us,” Howell pointed out. “In the first half they were man-to-man. In the second half they went to a zone and it bothered us. We were forced to play tonight without our second leading scorer (Austin Lyons), who is out with injury. Hopefully, we will have him back next weekend.”

Tiger Coach Jones said that playing good teams like Lapel close is no longer good enough. “Our defensive pressure was the key,” Jones explained. “Lapel kicked us in teeth in the first half. They owned us. We have been down before. We told the kids at halftime that the game was not over. We picked up the pace, forced turnovers, and started making shots. We got tougher in the second half. It is no longer good enough just to play well against good teams. We expect to win and there are no excuses if we don’t.”

Richardson led the Bulldogs and all game scorers with 24 points. Swimm scored 20 points for the Tigers and Oliver added 16.

In the junior varsity game, Lapel led 34-32 with four minutes to go and closed out the game on a 12-3 run to post a 46-35 victory. Chris Mottweiler led the Bulldog scoring with 10 points. Camden Rhoades led Hagerstown with nine.

Hagerstown 59 Lapel 54

LAPEL (54)

Huber 3-7 0-0 8, Ratzlaff 0-0 0-0 0, Alexander 1-3 0-0 2, Bloom 3-4 0-0 8, Scott 3-5 1-4 7, Richardson 7-12 8-10 24, Carpenter 2-5 1-2 5. Totals 19-39 10-16 54.

HAGERSTOWN (59)

McMillan 1-2 0-0 2, Swimm 8-14 1-1 20, Payne 1-11 0-0 3, Weiss 1-4 4-4 6, Oliver 7-14 2-5 16, Dale 2-7 0-0 6, Howard 0-0 0-0 0, Pyle 3-7 0-0 6. Total 23-58 7-10 59.

Lapel 23 11 8 12 — 54

Hagerstown 16 8 18 17 — 59

3-point goals – Lapel 6 (Carpenter 2, Huber 2, Richardson 2), Hagerstown 6 (Swimm 3, Dale2, Payne 3). Rebounds – Lapel 24 (Richardson 12), Hagerstown 27 (Oliver 10). Total fouls - Lapel 8, Hagerstown 11. Turnovers – Lapel 19, Hagerstown 11. JV score – Lapel 46, Hagerstown 35. Records – Lapel 11-10, Hagerstown 13-5.