Considering Howe will play in the high school boys basketball state finals for the first time Saturday, it might sound odd to hear Mosi Barnes say his team hasn’t been playing all that well.
Yet that’s exactly what the third-year Howe coach is saying.
“I don’t think we’ve played particularly well the last three games,” Barnes said. “This time of year you want to win and advance. But there are some things that we need to sharpen up.”
Seventh-ranked Howe (23-7) will meet No. 2 Lapel (25-4) for the Class 2A title Saturday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. No 2A team scores more than the Hornets, who are averaging 73.1 points a game. But Howe has been held well below that mark the past three games, including a 55-53 grinder of a semistate win against Providence last week in Richmond.
Saturday’s game may take a similar course. Lapel allows just 47.8 points a game, the 10th fewest of any 2A program in the state.
“We know Lapel has some versatility with guys who can play under the basket and play out,” Barnes said. “Our guys are similar. I think it’ll be a pretty good matchup.”
Lapel coach Jimmie Howell doesn’t necessarily buy into the contrast in styles. The Bulldogs eclipsed 70 points in a game 10 times this season.
“Howe can play fast, and I feel like we can, too,” Howell said.
But in the same breath, Howell admitted the Hornets’ quickness is a concern. Senior guard Kip Warren is the best of the bunch for the Hornets. The left-hander comes into Saturday’s game averaging a team-high 22.9 points and 5.3 assists, playing the role of scorer and playmaker.
Warren is the only senior on Howe’s roster who plays a significant on-court role. Barnes sees Warren as an extension of the coach on the floor.
“Leadership isn’t based off senior, junior, sophomore,” Barnes said. “It’s something that is within you. It’s something than can be learned. I think it starts with me. If I can model that on a day-to-day basis, then it’ll trickle down.”
Lapel will have a size advantage. The Bulldogs’ frontline includes 6-6 junior JonRoss Richardson (15.7 ppg, 5.1 rebounds), 6-4 senior Triston Carpenter (9.9 ppg, 8.0 rebounds) and 6-4 senior Brady Smith (6.5 ppg). Senior Kamron Herrington (14.3 ppg, 3.6 rebounds) also brings some size to the backcourt as a 6-3 guard.
Howe’s lone interior threat is 6-4 sophomore Tony Hopkins (12.2 ppg, 10.1 rebounds), although Warren and guards Jermaine Couch (8.2 ppg), a 6-1 junior, and Kycia Washington (9.8 ppg, 4.0 assists), a 5-10 freshman, are aggressive attacking the basket.
“Quickness impacts so many things,” Howell said. “Not only keeping them in front of us and out of the paint, but quickness rebounding the ball and defensively, anticipating passes and getting steals. The only way we can simulate that in practice is to play seven or eight against them.”
Call IndyStar reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649. Follow him on Twitter: @KyleNeddenriep.
SATURDAY’S IHSAA BOYS BASKETBALL STATE FINALS
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Tickets: $15 per session
Radio: WFNI-FM (107.5)
TV: Fox Sports Indiana
Class A: Bloomfield (26-3) vs. Liberty Christian (25-4), 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A: Howe (23-7) vs. Lapel (25-4), approx. 12:45 p.m.
Radio: WIBC-FM (93.1)
TV: Fox Sports Indiana Plus
Class 3A: Evansville Bosse (19-10) vs. Marion (22-7), 6 p.m.
Class 4A: New Albany (26-1) vs. McCutcheon (28-3), approx. 8:15 p.m.