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Class 4A State Championship Preview

Lewis Bagley, Special to
Posted: February 23, 2024
Lawrence Central vs Lake Central graphic

One victory stands between Lawrence Central and an historic season for both its program and in state record books.

The Bears will make their first-ever appearance in the state championship game when they meet a familiar foe in Lake Central for the Class 4A title at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Lawrence Central (29-1) captured only its second sectional title this season, having not advanced past that round since 1987. The Bears have the chance to become only the third team in state history to reach 30 wins in a season. Only Class 4A Ben Davis (in 2009) and 3A entry Princeton (2015) have ever won 30 games in a season.

These accomplishments are within reach in only Jannon Lampley’s second season as head coach. The team finished 17-8 last season, but the signs of success were visible.

“We lost four games last year by one point,” Lampley pointed out. “We were just a few points from a 20-win season last year and I would go back to last summer at Indiana University’s camp. It was a great bonding experience for our girls and they began to believe we have something special here.”

The Bears rose to the top of the Class 4A state poll by mid-December and bring a 24-game winning streak into the championship contest. In fact, Lawrence Central has lost only to Clark (Ky.) – that by one point.

Lawrence Central sports four double-figures scorers, led by 6-1 junior Jaylah Lampley’s 18.6 per game clip. Her sister, 6-2 sophomore guard Lola Lampley (yes, daughters of the coach) nets 11 ppg. Junior Laila Abdurraqib averages 12.6 points per game and is an 83 percent free throw shooter. Abdurraqib, in fact, hit 14-of-16 from the line in LC’s semi-state championship-game win over Center Grove. Finally, 5-10  sophomore Aniyah McKenzie averages 12 points and 5.9 rebounds per game – which matches Lola Lampley’s team-leading total.


The Class 4A State Championship featuring Lawrence Central (29-1) and Lake Central (26-4) will stream via PPV on this Saturday at approximately 8:15 pm ET / 7:15 CT!


“They are extremely athletic and their length is definitely a problem for everyone they play,” Lake Central coach Joe Huppenthal said of the Bears. “Our emphasis this week will be to take care of the basketball. If we have 15-plus turnovers, we’ll be in trouble.”

These teams are not unfamiliar with each other. The Indians (26-4) met Lawrence Central in the Bedford North Lawrence tournament in December (a 51-38 loss) and also saw the Bears in the 2022-23 season – losing a 39-38 overtime decision.

“It’s definitely a better situation when you’re not going in blind,” Huppenthal said. “Having played them last year and this year gives us a feel for what they’re about.”

Lampley also feels familiarity with the Indians is helpful.

“I think it’s advantageous for both teams,” she said. “You get a feel for their system and what to expect.”
While Lawrence Central has had the upper hand with Lake Central, there is no question the Indians are coming into the final playing their best basketball of the season.

“We’ve caught lightning in a bottle and we’re on a roll,” Huppenthal said of his team, which has won nine straight. “Our last three games, we’ve played so well, defensively. We’ve held (South Bend) Washington, Homestead and Noblesville all under their scoring averages.

“As the tournament has gone on, we’ve gained more and more steam.”

Lake Central’s line-up sports a striking scoring balance. Five players average between 7.2 and 9.5 points per game. Senior Aniyah Bishop has that 9.5 average and also leads the team in rebounding at 5.2 per game.

“All of our girls have accepted their roles,” Huppenthal said. “They decided wins are more important that personal accolades. For us, it’s been someone different stepping up each night and I never know who it will be, I just know it will be somebody.”

Huppenthal also hopes to join his brother as a state championship coach. His younger brother Chris guided the Hamilton Southeastern girls to the 4A crown in 2019.

Lake Central is seeking its second title in program history, having won in 1994. Lake Central appeared in the final four in 1995 and also lost in an epic 4A championship game in 1998 to Martinsville.

“Our kids don’t fear anything,” Huppenthal said, “and, throughout this tournament, they’ve answered the bell every time. We have to do it one more time.”