By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Madison Central’s three seniors — Larryn Brooks, Ashton Feldhaus and Heather Hinkle — are set to make their third-straight appearance in the championship game of the 11th Region Tournament.
The team they will face in the finals doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of experience in big games.
Lafayette doesn’t have a senior on its roster and the school hasn’t advanced to the Sweet 16 in 29 years.
“(Our seniors) have been there,” Central coach Robbie Cooksey said of playing in the 11th Region title game. “It’s exciting, but its different. We may have the (experience) advantage, but I don’t know how long that will last once we tip the ball off.”
Lafayette (21-12) and Madison Central (28-4) are set to meet at 7:30 p.m. today at McBrayer Arena.
The winner advances to next week’s state tournament and will take on the Region 9 champion in the opening round on March 14 at Western Kentucky University’s Diddle Arena.
The Lady Generals and Lady Indians have already met once the season.
Madison Central used a second-half rally for a 66-61 win Feb. 4 in Richmond. The Lady Indians trailed by four points after three quarters, but Brooks and Feldhaus combined to score 23 of their team’s 26 fourth-quarter points.
Brooks finished with 25 points, five steals and four assists and Feldhaus finished with 23 points, six rebounds and two steals.
Since that setback, the Lady Generals have not lost.
Led by pair of solid 6-foot post players — junior Sarah Cooley and sophomore Ashanti Thomas — and standout sophomore guard Dee Givens, Lafayette has won eight-straight games.
The Lady Generals hammered Madison Southern, 71-28, in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament and fought off a late charge to beat Franklin County, 66-55, in Saturday semifinals.
In the two wins last week at McBrayer, Cooley had 24 points and 16 rebounds and Thomas had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
“They are both good inside post players,” Cooksey said. “They played well against us offensively in the first game. Those are the kids we have to take care of. We can’t let one of them get 20 points and 10 rebounds and the other do real well to for us to be successful. It will be a challenge for us.”
In the first meeting, Cooley had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Thomas had eight points and eight rebounds.
Feldhaus and junior Shadae Bosley will draw the defensive assignment against Cooley and Thomas. The Central forwards are just as tall as Lafayette’s post players and are more versatile.
“We match-up well with them size-wise,” Cooksey said. “One of the advantages that we will have is that (one of their post players) will have to guard Ashton and she can get out on the perimeter. So, that will be something we will look at it.”
Givens has been Lafayette’s leading scorer in both 11th Region Tournament games. The sophomore had 18 points against Southern and 24 points against Franklin County.
Givens will likely draw the unenviable task of trying to slow down Brooks, who was recently named one of five finalists for this year’s Ms. Basketball.
“I don’t know that they have anyone who can guard Larryn,” Cooksey said.
In the regular-season game between the teams, Lafayette shot 41 percent from three-point range and out-rebounded Central, 38-29.
Getting a better performance defensively and on the boards could be the key to the Indians winning their second regional title in three seasons.
“We’ve got to make sure we defend the three,” Cooksey said. “It’s about a lot of the same things we always talk about. We’ve got to hold people in the 30s (shooting) and out-rebound them.”