2023-24 Indiana State Girls Basketball Championship Team - Lawrence Central.

Lawrence Central Girls Basketball Team Secures State Championship

When the final buzzer sounded at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on February 24, the Lawrence Central girls basketball team had just won the state championship.

At approximately 8 p.m., the Lady Bears tipped off against the Lake Central Indians in the 49th annual IHSAA girls basketball state finals. The Lady Bears won the game routing the Indians by a score of 55-28. This was the fewest amount of points ever allowed in the 4A IHSAA state finals. This win was fueled by Jaylah Lampley’s shooting, Laila Abdurraqib’s ball handling, and Mariah Kenter-Garrett’s defense.

After losing last year in the sectional against Warren Central, the team set a goal to play on the last day of the season. This team realized that they were so much better than this. They had 6 a.m.. runs, practices six days a week, and hundreds of hours in the gym drilling themselves to be the championship team they could be.

Melaya Hughes knew early on that they could win it all. “The way we encourage one another to be the very best is unmatched, as well as how we hit adversity throughout the season but always came out on top,” she said.

Before the season started, one player in particular faced a challenge that no else did – an ACL tear. Abdurraqib tore her left ACL her freshman and sophomore year. After the tough rehab from the first tear, she was devastated to hear she tore the same ACL again late last season, and had to go through the challenging and painful rehab again.

“This season felt amazing,” she said, when asked how it felt to be a champion after two ACL surgeries and missing a majority of her freshman and sophomore seasons. “Missing those chunks of my basketball life was definitely difficult, but with the rehab and my family, teammates and friends pushing me to continue to work and achieve my goals, it made it so much easier. Winning this year with this team will always be a core memory of my life.”

Abdurraqib’s father, Mubarak Abdurraqib, reflected on what it was like to watch his daughter recover and then win a state title. “Injuries are devastating, especially the ones that require athletes to take time away from the sport,” he said. “I had the opportunity to be with Laila through the surgeries and the PT sessions. Seeing the team win the championship gave me a great sense of pride. Laila is not defined by her injury. She is defined as a champion.”

The girls team started the season 5-0, routing opponents La Lumiere School and University High School. The girls had their first serious test of the season when they played George Rogers Clark High School, the second-ranked team in Kentucky. They lost this game after leading by 13 points in the fourth quarter, and the girls responded to the loss by refocusing their efforts. They came back the same day and beat Larry A. Ryle High School, the 10th-ranked team in Kentucky, by nine points. The next week they won the Marion County Tournament, which they began by defeating Franklin Central in the first round by 34 points.

Lawrence Central’s Jaylah Lampley drives to the basket during the championship game.

They played Lawrence North in the second round. With one minute to go, the Lawrence Central girls trailed by five points. They stormed back to win and play in the tournament championship beating Pike and then North Central. They finished the regular season defeating teams like 10th-ranked Lake Central, 19th-ranked Noblesville, the 7th-ranked team in Ohio Magnificat, and Lawrence North, who was ranked fourth in the state, twice.

When IHSAA tournament play began, they defeated Crispus Attucks, Lawrence North and Warren Central to win their first sectional championship since 1987. They then went on to win their first regional championship against Mt. Vernon. After these four games they traveled to Southport to play Plainfield and Center Grove in the semi-state, and beat both of those teams to advance to the state championship game, where the girls routed Lake Central to secure the school’s first state championship in boys or girls basketball.

Jaylah and Lola Lampley had great games and they won this state title with their mother, Coach Jannon Lampley. “Being able to share a championship with them is the best blessing God gifted me with,” Jaylah said.

This team finished the year 30-1, had four players named to the MIC first team, had two players named to the junior all-star teams, and had three players named to the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association underclass Supreme 15. With nearly the entire team returning, the girls aren’t done yet, and are hungry to get back in the gym to defend their title.

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