RICHMOND — Madison Central, a Sweet Sixteen team two years ago, is back.
The 11th-rated Indians led wire-to-wire in turning back No. 21 Lafayette 45-34 in Tuesday's finals of the Girls' 11th Region Tournament at Eastern Kentucky University.
Tournament MVP Larryn Brooks, a 5-foot-5 senior and a finalist for Miss Basketball, led Central with 21 points and three assists.
"It's really sweet. For the second time in three years with Central, it's awesome," said Brooks, who has committed to Indiana University. "It's what we've been waiting for. MVP, I couldn't have done it without my team. They keep me going."
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Ashton Feldhaus, a 6-2 senior who will play for Butler, added 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Last year's regional loss to Dunbar had been motivating Central ever since.
"We've talked about that loss all year this year," Feldhaus said. "We hate that feeling. I don't think anybody forgets it."
Tuesday, it was time to savor victory.
The Indians will meet 9th Region champion Notre Dame in the Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen, March 14, at Western Kentucky.
Central (29-4) has won 15 of its last 16 games.
Tuesday's game was won with defense and free-throw shooting. The Indians shot 15-for-17 from the line, scoring all their fourth-quarter points by going 13-for-13 at the line. They went 0-for-4 from the field in the last quarter, finishing 14-for-37 (37.8 percent) overall.
Lafayette was 6-for-8 from the foul line and 13-for-55 (23.6 percent) from the field.
What mattered most, though, was the final score.
"In the second half, we were able to get a transition basket or two. I think we got Bailey (O'Bryan) a layup or two," winning coach Robbie Cooksey said. "It was an ugly game. We grinded. We didn't hit a ton of shots, but we got stops. We got rebounds when it mattered.
"I can't be more proud of my kids. It wasn't pretty to watch, but the outcome is the outcome. It's what we wanted."
Lafayette (21-13) had won eight in a row since losing 66-61 to Central on Feb. 4.
Ashanti Thomas, a 6-2 sophomore, led the Generals with 12 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.
Kiara Pankins came off the bench to score eight. Sarah Cooley had 10 rebounds to go with six points.
"The difference in the end is that we played a little tight in the beginning and we weren't running like we should have," Lafayette Coach Allison Denton said. "I'm surprised we stayed in the game as long as we did.
"Our defense, we made some adjustments with our defense that kept us in the game. We had to keep the ball out of Feldhaus' hands in the paint. ... I'm proud of the adjustment they made."
Lafayette came out in a 3-2 zone, and neither team could find the basket early.
Lafayette sank only one of 12 first-quarter shots. Central was 3-for-13, but got a three-pointer by Brooks to close the quarter with a 7-2 lead.
"That's probably just luck," Brooks said. "I didn't really (expect) to hit it, but that just got us going."
The Indians led by as many as 12 in the second quarter and were up 22-16 at intermission.
Lafayette, which hasn't been to the Sweet Sixteen for 29 years, got a jump-hook by Thomas and a three-pointer by Ken'yale Demus to pull to within 22-21.
That's as close as the Generals would come, though.
"You expect that. They're a good team. They're really good, actually," Brooks said. "... We knew they were going to make their run, but we made ours."
The lead was 32-30 through three quarters. Brooks, who would finish 9-for-10 at the foul line, went 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter. Heather Hinkle was 3-for-3 and O'Bryan made her only two tries.
Madison Central 45, Lafayette 34
LAFAYETTE (21-13) — Cooley 6, Thomas 12, Givens 2, Nagahiro 0, K.Demus 6, Pankins 8. Totals 13-55 6-8 34.
MADISON CENTRAL (29-4) — Feldhaus 10, Bosley 7, O'Bryan 4, Brooks 21, Hinkle 3. Totals 14-37 15-17 45.
Lafayette 2 14 14 4—34
Madison Central 7 15 10 13—45
Three-point goals — L 2-15, MC 2-8.
All-tournament team — Shadae Bosley, Heather Hinkle, Ashton Feldhaus (Madison Central); Dee Givens, Ashanti Thomas, Kiara Pankins (Lafayette); Shakeema Jackson, Brooke Todd (Dunbar); Raven Timmons, Malaka Frank (Franklin Co.); Tereka Guyn (Scott Co.); Shauntae Brown (Frankfort); Serena Sandusky (Bryan Station); Kelley Freeman (Madison Southern). MVP — Larryn Brooks, Madison Central.